Mississippi executes Holland; 2nd inmate in 2 days

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 21, 2010

PARCHMAN (AP) — Gerald James Holland, convicted for raping and killing a 15-year-old girl, was put to death Thursday, apologizing to the family and blaming his actions on ‘‘alcohol, despair and temper.’’

‘‘I’m really deep down in my heart sorry it happened,’’ the 72-year-old Holland said before reading the 23rd Psalm from a paper held by the prison chaplain. ‘‘I wish this would bring her back. I want you to know that I’m very sorry this ever happened. I knew it was wrong but it was alcohol, despair and temper that caused it,’’

‘‘That’s it,’’ he said when finished.

Shortly thereafter, the death process started. Holland gasped several times, took several deep breaths and was still. He was pronounced dead at 6:14 p.m.

Marcie Walker of Wiggins, the sister of 15-year-old Krystal King of Gulfport, quietly held hands with Melinda Braxton, director of victim services for the Mississippi Department of Corrections. A brother-in-law, Timothy Adams of Gulfport, sat nearby.

Walker, a petite blonde, held a picture of her sister at the post-execution news conference. She was joined by another sister, Melissa King Adams of Gulfport.

‘‘It took 24 years, 24 of my personal years, to get to this point to see the man die who killed my sister,’’ Walker said. ‘‘I can really say it is over with. My sister will finally have peace. I believe that.’’

‘‘Mississippi should be like Texas and put in an express lane,’’ she said.

In a statement read at the news conference, the girl’s mother, Kathy King, said she chose not to attend the execution.

‘‘Watching him die will not bring Krystal back nor will it take away my pain. And even though Mr. Holland is dead, he still lived a full life, a life he stole from her,’’ the statement said.

Holland had no witnesses at the execution. He wanted no family or attorneys there, Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said.

‘‘He had not talked about any hope this week,’’ Epps said. ‘‘I think he kind of figured this was the end.’’

It was the second execution in Mississippi in two days. Paul Everette Woodward died Wednesday for his 1987 conviction in the rape-slaying of a 24-year-old woman.

Holland requested a sedative before the execution and was given Valium. He asked to be buried at the penitentiary.

Earlier Thursday, Gov. Haley Barbour refused to grant clemency and Holland’s final appeal was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Holland was convicted of raping and killing King in 1986. At 72, he was the state’s oldest death-row inmate.

Court documents and Holland’s conversations with prison officials detail some of the circumstances leading up to the slaying, although Holland did not admit raping the girl.

King and a friend went to Holland’s home on Sept. 11, 1986, the day before King’s 15th birthday. Epps said Holland told him he had been drinking heavily at home that night. Court records show Holland’s wife and daughter left him in July or August, and that he had talked about his divorce to King and her friend.

Epps said Holland claims he received a letter about his divorce being final the same day King came over.

King was killed the next morning. Prosecutors said she was raped, beaten and stabbed, and an autopsy showed the cause of death was asphyxiation from a ligature placed around her neck and clothing stuffed down her throat.

But Holland originally claimed her death was an accident. He and another man, Jerry Douglas, disposed of the body. Douglas reported the slaying to police and testified against Holland at trial.