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Thursday, February 25, 1999 Published at 04:32 GMT

World: Americas

Killer chooses lethal injection

The case sparked high-level protests from the German Government

A German citizen has been executed by injection in Arizona, shortly after after changing his mind about being put to death in a gas chamber.

Karl LaGrand, 35, was sentenced to death after he was convicted of murdering a bank manager during a botched robbery in 1982.

He is the first German national to have been executed in the US since the Second World War.

[ image: Lawyers say the gas chamber is cruel]
Lawyers say the gas chamber is cruel
LaGrand's execution was delayed by two hours on Wednesday after he was given a chance to switch to lethal injection even though he had chosen death by gas.

LaGrand apologised to the family of his victim and to a woman injured during the robbery. He was pronounced dead within four minutes.

His brother, Walter, 37, is set to be executed next week for the same crime.

Earlier, the US Supreme Court had overruled an appeal court decision that cyanide, which is far more painful than an injection, was a cruel and unusual punishment.

Only five states operate gas chambers and none has been used since 1992, when a condemned man took nearly 11 minutes to die.

Request backfires

The brothers had originally requested death by cyanide in a calculated bid to keep them from any form of execution.

On Wednesday, their lawyers succeeded in persuading a federal appeals court that gas was a cruel punishment. But the Supreme Court lifted the stay of execution later in the day.

One judge dissented, saying they should consider more fully whether the gas chamber is cruel and whether inmates who chose gas waive their right to appeal the method's constitutionality.

Clemency plea

The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, had appealed for clemency for the brothers, who went to the United States as children.

Karl LaGrand also pleaded for mercy, saying: "Killing my brother and me after 17 years, what's that going to accomplish?"

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