Stay of execution granted at 11th hour

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 6, 2000

Staff Report

Feb. 5, 2000 8 PM

Less than three hours before a Brundidge man was scheduled to die in the electric chair, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution.

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The decision to allow Robert Lee Tarver, 52, to live was based on a suit pending by Tarver that Alabama’s means of execution constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Tarver was sentenced to die after he was found guilty by an Alabama court of murdering Russell County grocery store owner Hugh Kite in 1984. The jury found that the shooting of Kite was the result of a robbery attempt by Tarver.

A spokesperson for the family of Tarver said concern over the method of execution has led Tarver to fight th state in the case. Alabama is one of three states in the U.S. that does not use lethal injection as its form of carrying out executions.

"It is a terrible way to die," the spokesperson said.

Tarver has been serving time in Holeman State Prison near Atmore since he was convicted of the shooting. He was scheduled to go the prison’s electric chair at 12:01 Friday morning, but the stay was granted at 9:15 p.m. Thursday.

The governor has proposed legislation that would give prisoners on death row in Alabama the opportunity to choose to die by lethal injection, but the legislation has not been before the state legislature yet.

Tarver’s family believes Tarver is innocent of the charges against him, but the spokesperson said the family has reached somewhat of a resolution about his execution.

"We don’t want him to die like some kind of animal," the spokesperson said. "Forcing the family to go through that is terrible."

Family members remain hopeful that Tarver will not be executed. Still, should the execution occur, the spokesperson said lethal injection would be preferred to the electric chair.

Tarver was denied clemency by Gov. Don Siegelman and the case was carried to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It’s in their hands now," the spokesperson said. "We hope they do the right thing. We hope that should Robert die that he will somehow make a difference and be the reason that the electric chair is not used in this state again."