MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey refused a reprieve for an inmate set for execution Thursday night for a quadruple killing that occurred after a dispute over a pickup truck, the prisoner’s lawyer said.
The decision apparently cleared the way for Michael Brandon Samra to be put to death by lethal injection since the defense said it doesn’t plan to file last-minute appeals.
A lawyer for Samra, Steven Sears, said he received the denial from Gov. Ivey’s office about eight hours before execution, set for a state prison in Atmore.
Ivey’s staff did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Samra was convicted of capital murder in the killing of two adults and two young girls near Birmingham in 1997. Evidence showed the slayings stemmed from a friend’s argument with his father over a pickup truck.
The clemency request highlighted that Samra, 41, was only 19 at the time of the killings.
Samra and a friend, Mark Duke, were convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Duke’s father, the father’s girlfriend and the woman’s two elementary-age daughters in 1997. The two adults were shot and the children had their throats slit.
Evidence showed Duke planned the killings because he was angry that his father wouldn’t let him use his pickup.
Duke and Samra were both originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, but Duke’s sentence was overturned because he was 16 at the time of the killings and the Supreme Court later banned executing inmates younger than 18 at the time of their crimes.
Samra was 19 at the time and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his execution while the Kentucky Supreme Court considers whether anyone younger than 21 at the time of a crime should be put to death, but the justices refused .
The request for a gubernatorial reprieve was based on similar grounds. It also said Duke was more to blame for the killings than Samra.
Court documents show Duke and Samra killed the four at a home in Pelham, a Birmingham suburb, on March 23, 1997. The day before, Mark Duke and his father, Randy Duke, got into a heated argument over the man’s refusal to let the son borrow his truck.
After enlisting friends to help, Mark Duke killed his father with a gunshot to the face and Samra shot the man’s girlfriend, Dedra Mims Hunt, who survived and fled to another part of the house.
Mark Duke found the woman in a bathroom and shot her, court documents show. Out of bullets, he then used a knife to slit the throat of the woman’s 6-year-old daughter, Chelisa Hunt. Samra cut the throat of the woman’s 7-year-old daughter, Chelsea Hunt, as she begged for mercy while Duke held the child down.
In a letter to the governor seeking mercy for the inmate, Samra’s lawyer said his client confessed to the slayings, expressed remorse and participated only at Mark Duke’s request.
Two other men who were teenage friends of Samra and Mark Duke at the time of the killings served prison sentences for lesser roles. David Layne Collums and Michael Lafayette Ellison, both now 39, were accused of helping plan and cover-up the killings.
Another execution is scheduled Thursday in Tennessee , that of 68-year-old Don Johnson, who was condemned to die for the 1984 suffocation of his wife.