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Tuesday, 8 October, 2002, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Serial killer's execution 'will win Jeb votes'
Aileen Wuornos in 1991 (left) and Governor Jeb Bush
Critics say Jeb Bush is using Wuornos to get re-elected

She was America's first female serial killer of the modern era and her case spawned TV movies, books, documentaries and even an opera.

The final scene will be played out at 0930 local time (1430BST) on Wednesday at Florida State Prison.

Florida's Death Row
Only one woman has been executed since 1848 - Judy Buenoano, in 1998
In 2000, lethal injection was introduced, but inmates can still choose to die by electric chair
Executioners are paid $150 per death
Inmates can order a last meal costing up to $20
The average inmate stays on Death Row for more than 11 years
In January 2002, wrongly convicted Juan Melendez was freed after 17 years on Death Row

Aileen Wuornos, 46, a former prostitute, will be strapped to a gurney and injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

Critics say her execution, and that of Rigoberto Sanchez-Velasco last week, is a cynical ploy by Florida's Governor Jeb Bush to get himself re-elected next month.

Abe Bonowitz, of the pressure group Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told BBC News Online: "Jeb Bush is running for re-election and that is the only reason they are having an execution now."

But Mr Bonowitz said Mr Bush's Democrat rival, Bill McBride, was not keen to make the death penalty an election issue in what is turning out to be a close race because he was scared of being seen as "soft" on law and order.

Bill McBride, Democrat candidate for Governor of Florida
Bill McBride prefers to debate education

Alan Stonecipher, a spokesman for Mr McBride's campaign, told BBC News Online: "We are not making the death penalty an issue. Mr McBride supports the death penalty but he supports a moratorium on executions until the issue is resolved by the Florida Supreme Court."

Mr Bonowitz said the President's brother should not be pushing through executions when it was still was not clear whether the death penalty was constitutional.

But Wuornos is certainly raising no objection to her impending execution.

Six killings

She was sentenced to death for killing six middle-aged men while plying her trade along the interstate highways of central Florida in 1989 and 1990. But it is thought she killed eight in total.

For a map showing where Aileen Wuornos operated, click here

She initially claimed she had killed in self-defence, having been raped.

But to have killed in self-defence eight times was stretching credulity a bit far and she eventually admitted having planned and carried out all the murders with robbery as her motive.

The victims
Dec 1989: Richard Mallory
May 1990: Unknown male
Jun 1990: David Spears
Jun 1990: Charles Carskaddon
Jun 1990: Peter Siems
Jul 1990: Troy Burress
Sep 1990: Dick Humphreys
Nov 1990: Walter Antonio

Faced with years of incarceration on Death Row she has waived her appeals and become a "volunteer".

But Mr Bonowitz said her wish to die should not come into the debate.

"Who cares what she wants? She's a convicted prisoner. It seems the only way you can get an assisted suicide in Florida is by murdering someone," he said.

Used and abused

Wuornos was abandoned by her mother as an infant and her father was a child molester who committed suicide in jail.

Aileen Wuornos in 2001
Wuornos says she "seriously hates human life"
She became pregnant at the age of 14, possibly as a result of rape, but was forced to give up the child and fell into prostitution.

Used and abused by men, she became a lesbian and grew to loathe people - men in particular.

In April she wrote to the Florida Supreme Court: "I have hate crawling through my system.

"I'm one who seriously hates human life and would kill again."

'Fit to die'

Opponents of the death penalty questioned her sanity but last week she passed a 30-minute mental competency test, clearing the last obstacle in the way of her execution.

Nick Broomfield
A British documentary maker is conducting Ms Wuornos' last TV interview
State Attorney John Tanner, who witnessed the test, said: "She knew exactly what she was doing. She is pretty bright, very quick and very deliberate - even now."

But Mr Bonowitz dismissed the test. "You can't test for mental illness in 30 minutes," he said. "All they were testing for was mental retardation."

Lawyer Billy Nolas, who represented Wuornos at her trial, said she suffered from borderline personality disorder as a result of neglect and sexual abuse as a child.

"She is the most disturbed individual I have represented," he said.

Last interview

British documentary film maker Nick Broomfield was due to visit Wuornos on Tuesday to conduct her last ever TV interview.

Broomfield, who made a documentary on Wuornos in 1992, was invited by her because she trusted him.

His producer, Jo Human, told BBC News Online: "It's going to be her last public interview and obviously it's going to be very emotional."

The interview is expected to be shown on British television later in the year.

Ms Human said Wuornos clearly wanted to die and claimed she had suffered mental abuse from the prison wardens.

"She says they have tainted her food and have been giving her a very hard time. She's had enough," she told BBC News Online.

Salesman Troy Burress was one of Wuornos' fourth victim - and his sister, Leta Prater, plans to witness Wuornos' execution.

She said: "I want to know she is absolutely gone."

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See also:

06 Sep 02 | Americas
02 Oct 02 | Americas
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