in Jackson, Georgia
After 12 years on death row and a desperate final legal battle to save him, the wretched life of Nick Ingram ended early today in Georgia's electric chair.
Three hours after an earlier stay of execution was dismissed by a federal appeals court, Ingram, 31, was led into the death chamber at the State Maximum Security Prison here, strapped into the brown wooden chair and electrocuted with more than 2,000 volts passing through his body. Doctors pronounced him dead minutes later.
Born in Britain and holder of dual British and US nationality, Ingram was the 19th person executed in Georgia since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983, and the 272nd since the death penalty was restored by the US in 1976.
He died despite a passionate international effort to save him. British Telecom operators said today they had been "inundated" with calls from people wanting to ring the prison and ask for the electrocution to be halted.
As he prepared to go the electric chair, Ingram was said by prison authorities to be drinking coffee, "quiet and stone-faced". There were two chaplains with him. Six media representatives went into the prison to view the execution
As the tortuous legal battle reached its climax, his attorneys' last hopes rested with the US Supreme Court in Washington to which they, in vain, filed an appeal. Other avenues were closed by the ruling of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta, which quashed a three-day stay of execution granted earlier in the evening by District Judge Horace Ward.
Judge Ward granted the stay, even though he dismissed pleas by Ingram's lawyers for a new hearing to examine alleged new evidence that he was drugged at his trial in 1983 and unable to brief his defence lawyers.
As the court battle moved into its macabre end game, events at the prison here followed the grisly choreography of Thursday, when Ingram came within an hour of being strapped into the electric chair and killed.
Once again, his family paid their last visits, with his British mother, Ann, describing as "disgusting and barbarbic" the ordeal her son was going through.
Michael Bowers, Georgia's Attorney General, said as he arrived to witness the execution: "It will be a solemn and grim business not to be taken lightly."
He said Ingram's being on the state's death row for 12 years represented a travesty of justice. "Twelve years is long enough. It's way too long. This is way, way too long. This is not justice.
"Think about the victim's wife, who has had to relive this time and time and time again. This case has had over 15 legal reviews ... someone far smarter than I said that justice delayed is justice denied, and this is a perfect example."
And as the final death watch approached, Georgia's prison department's spokeswoman, Vicki Gavalas, clinically described what seemed to be Ingram's last day on earth; how he ate little breakfast " a few spoonfuls of eggs and grits", how later he had some crackers and chips bought by relatives from a prison vending machine.
Once again, Ms Gavalas, in elegant coiffeur and sporting gold necklace and bangles, smoothly answered questions as if she were describing arrangements for a small-town convention.
Ms Gavalas said Ingram had been taken from the holding cell to the chamber adjacent to the room where the electric chair is kept. He had made the same journey on Thursday before the original stay of execution.
She confirmed that he would be re-shaved to remove any remaining stubble which might hinder the electrocution - 24 hours after he was shaved in preparation for execution on Thursday.
Legal saga, page 3