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Governor Fletcher To Sign Death Warrant On Baze

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Ernie Fletcher plans to sign a death warrant for convicted murder Ralph Stevens Baze, his office announced on Tuesday.

Fletcher is expected to sign the warrant on Wednesday setting an execution date for Sept. 25 for Baze, said Fletcher spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker. Baze was condemned to death in 1993 for killing Powell County Sheriff Steve Bennett and Deputy Arthur Briscoe.

It would be the first execution in the state in eight years.Eddie Lee Harper was executed by lethal injection in 1999.

Earlier this month Attorney General Greg Stumbo asked Fletcher to schedule an execution for Baze on Sept. 18. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Baze's final appeal in July, clearing the way for Stumbo to make the request.

Fletcher decided to sign the warrant after reviewing the Baze file and receiving a full briefing from general counsel David Fleenor.

"As the chief magistrate of the Commonwealth, it is fitting and just under the law that the Governor's constitutional authority is exercised," Fleenor said in a statement.

David Barron, Baze's attorney, did not immediately return a call for comment.

There have been no executions in Kentucky since Fletcher took office in 2003. The state has executed two men since reinstating the death penalty in 1976, and only Harper by lethal injection.

Baze was being sought on five warrants from Ohio when he shot Bennett and Briscoe as they searched for him in eastern Kentucky. Stumbo recounted some details of the killings, including that Bennett was shot three times in the back and Briscoe was shot twice in the back before Baze shot him in the head at close range.

Baze is involved in two separate lawsuits challenging Kentucky's methods of execution. He is one of three inmates suing the state, claiming that lethal injection violates federal laws because a doctor doesn't obtain or administer the drugs. He is also suing in federal court along with several other inmates, claiming that lethal injection amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Kentucky has 40 death-row inmates, including 11 who have been there for more than two decades. Injection is the only method of execution used on inmates who have been condemned since 1998; those
sentenced to death earlier can choose electrocution.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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