JARRATT, Va. – Ricky Gray was executed by lethal ejection on Wednesday at the Greensville Correctional Center.
When officials asked Gray if he had any final words, he replied “nope,” according to Lisa Kinney, a spokesperson with the Virginia Department of Corrections.
CBS 6 reporter Jon Burkett also observed the execution, and told News 3’s Merris Badcock he thought he heard Gray say “no sir, but it could have been nope.”
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Gray’s request for a stay of execution hours before he was put to death.
Gray was convicted of killing a Virginia Beach homecoming queen, her husband and their two young girls on New Year’s Day in their Richmond home back in 2006.
Over the last several days, media outlets have focused on Gray’s execution: whether or not he should be executed, how he should be executed, the controversy behind the three-drug lethal cocktail, and so on.
However, News 3 would also like to remember the Harveys, the family that was murdered by Gray and another man that fateful day, over a decade ago. Kathy Grabinsky Harvey was 39 years old, her husband Bryan was 42 years old, their daughter Stella was 9 years old, and their youngest, Ruby, was 4 years old when they were murdered.
In doing research for this story, News 3’s Merris Badcock interviewed a man who lived in the Richmond neighborhood where the Harveys were murdered, and still lives there to this day.
“It was absolutely horrifying,” said Michael Stone, who happens to be the executive director for Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
Stone was already against the death penalty for religious reasons before the Harveys were murdered. However, he says the Harveys’ deaths tested his faith.
“At times I was tempted to feel otherwise,” Stone told News 3.
Another reason Stone opposed the death penalty is because he says it takes away from the victims.
“Capital punishment turns killers into media stars,” said Stone. “If someone is sentenced to life in prison without parole, they are out of the news.
“That means the killer’s face and story is in the media time, and time, and time again, and that inflicts profound wounds on the family of murder victims.”
Gray is the first prisoner in Virginia to be executed using a controversial three-drug cocktail, one critics say contributed to other botched executions in the U.S.
The first drug was meant to put him to sleep, the second drug paralyzed him, and the third drug stopped his heart.
But critics of this method have a problem with the first drug: midazolam.
The execution team used midazolam as an anesthetic, but critics say it is actually just a strong anti-anxiety drug.
“What we have seen in a number of executions that is very troubling, is that once the midazolam is administered to the condemned prisoner, the prisoner initially appears to lose consciousness, but then regains consciousness,” said Megan McCracken, a lethal injection expert at U.C. Berkeley School of Law.
“We have seen struggling, difficulty drawing breath, gasping, and simply that the prisoner remains alive showing signs of struggle for much longer than anticipated.”
On Tuesday, Gray’s attorneys filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to stay the execution so they could take a legal look at whether or not lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.
“Because Mr. Gray has not had a full hearing in court, he has not had an opportunity to make his case,” said McCracken. “Unless something changes, he will go to his execution without a court actually thoroughly vetting his procedure.”