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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
US executes 74-year-old murderer
James Hubbard
Hubbard always denied the shooting
A 74-year-old murderer has become the oldest US inmate in six decades to be put to death after he was executed in the state of Alabama.

James Hubbard died by lethal injection after 27 years on death row.

He was convicted of the 1977 murder of Lillian Montgomery, who befriended him when he was released from prison after serving 19 years for another killing.

Hubbard's lawyers had appealed to the Supreme Court against the execution on the grounds of his age and ill-health.

He suffered from cancer, hepatitis and dementia.

"He is a sick, frail man. He is harmless, and it makes no sense for the state of Alabama to have executed him," his lawyer Alan Rose said.

The court voted 5-4 to deny a stay.

During the hearing, the state argued that "murderers - especially repeat killers like Hubbard - do not deserve 'leniency' merely because their life of crime does not result in the imposition of a death sentence until later in life", the Associated Press news agency reported.

Shot three times

Lillian Montgomery was robbed and shot three times in the head.

Six members of her family witnessed the execution.

Her son Jimmy said was "glad to see this part of our lives end", the AFP news agency reported.

According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Hubbard was the oldest person executed in the US since 1941, when James Stephens of Colorado was executed aged 76.

The group was critical of the court's decision to go ahead with the execution.

"Strapping an elderly man to a gurney and filling him with poison cannot be justice," it said in a statement.

"During the trial... the defence counsel did not present evidence of Mr Hubbard's history of alcoholism, borderline mental retardation and his difficult life," it added.

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