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Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
Tennessee's first execution in 40 years

The US state of Tennessee has carried out its first execution in 40 years, putting to death a convicted killer who confessed to raping and killing an eight-year-old girl.

According to officials, Robert Coe, 44, was pronounced dead at Riverbend prison near Nashville after an injection of lethal chemicals.

Protest
Death-penalty opponents staged protests in Nashville

Coe spoke his last words to his brother and sisters, who were watching the execution: "Forgive everybody, you all hear me? God loves you. I'm gone. I'll see you in heaven. Bye bye."

Charlotte Stout, the mother of the young girl Coe was convicted of raping and killing in 1979 in the small town of Greenfield, told reporters after the execution: "It's finished. My daughter can rest."

Appeals

The sentence was originally scheduled to be carried out last October, but stays of execution were

Charlotte Stout
Charlotte Stout: "My daughter can rest"

granted three times as part of Coe's appeals. Charlotte Stout Coe's lawyers argued that he was mentally ill and executing him would violate his constitutional rights.

US legal rules prevent the execution of the insane. The threshold question is whether the inmate understands the punishment and why he or she is receiving it.

The US legal authorities finally upheld a trial court decision that Coe met the standard.

Protests

The case drew attention of death-penalty opponents who staged protests in Nashville in an unsuccessful attempt to convince the authorities to grant Coe clemency.

Some religious leaders have also condemned the Supreme Court for scheduling the execution during the holiest week in the Christian calendar and at the beginning of the Jewish Passover.

Tennessee was the only southern state which had not resumed executions since the death penalty was reinstated in the US in 1976.

The bulk of the executions carried out in the US since capital punishment resumed have been in the South.

Tennessee's last execution took place in 1960, when a black man was executed after being convicted of raping a white woman.

There are now 95 men and two women on death row in Tennessee.

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See also:

25 Feb 00 | Americas
US grandmother executed for murder
04 Mar 99 | Americas
Countdown to US execution
25 Feb 99 | Americas
Racist killer sentenced to die
25 Feb 99 | Americas
Killer chooses lethal injection
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