A man condemned for his role in a quadruple killing that followed a dispute over a pickup truck was put to death Thursday in Alabama after declining to make any last-minute appeals.
Michael Brandon Samra, 41, was pronounced dead at 7:33 p.m. following a three-drug lethal injection at Holman prison, authorities said.
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 that Duke planned the killings because he was angry his father wouldn’t let him use his pickup.
Families of the victims thanked law enforcement and the community for support in a statement read by Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn after the execution.
“This has been a painful journey. Today justice was carried out,” said the statement from relatives, six of whom were witnesses.
Strapped to a gurney with his arms extended, Samra made a profession of Christian faith before the drugs flowed.
“I would like to thank Jesus for everything he has done for me,” Samra said. He ended with the word, “Amen.”
As the drugs flowed, Samra went still and his chest heaved three times. He took a few deep breaths and his head moved slightly. Then an officer checked to see if he was still conscious.
A few moments later, Samra’s hands curled inward, his chest moved like he was breathing and his mouth fell slightly agape before he turned ashen.
The execution procedure began about an hour after the scheduled 6 p.m. start time, but Dunn said there was no particular reason for a delay.
“There were no issues that I was aware of,” Dunn told reporters.
None of Samra’s family attended, but the inmate had a final phone call with his father on Wednesday, said prison spokesman Bob Horton. The execution came hours after Samra met with six friends and a spiritual adviser, who witnessed the execution with Samra’s two lawyers.
Steven Sears, one of the attorneys, said the inmate received a denial of clemency from Gov. Kay Ivey’s office several hours earlier Thursday. Sears said he had gained hope on Wednesday when Ivey talked about the sanctity of life in signing a bill to virtually outlaw abortion in the state.
“Today my hopes were dashed. I guess she didn’t mean it,” he said after the execution.
Though Duke and Samra were both originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, Duke’s sentence was overturned because he was 16 at the time, 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 .
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.
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.
Alan Freedman, an attorney who formerly represented Samra for 16 years, said the inmate had accepted his fate and wasn’t interested in a last-ditch court fight. Samra made no 11th-hour appeals to the courts.
“My heart goes out to the victims’ families,” said Freedman. “He was remorseful, he was ready. He was ready a long time ago.”
Another execution was carried out Thursday in Tennnessee , that of 68-year-old Don Johnson, who drew a death sentence for the 1984 suffocation of his wife in Memphis.