Delaware Executes Man Convicted In Ax Murder

Friday, July 29, 2011 – Steve Fermier and Associated Press

A 38-year-old man who killed a woman with an ax during a burglary nearly two decades ago was executed early Friday morning, Delaware’s first execution since 2005.

Robert Jackson III was put to death by lethal injection at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna and pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. Before he was executed, he was asked if he wanted to say any last words. Jackson lifted his head, searching the window between the execution chamber and the witnesses to ask if his victim’s two children were watching.

“Are the Girardis in there? Christopher and Claudia, if you are in there, I’ve never faulted you for your anger. I would have been mad myself,” he said before denying he had killed their mother.

He suggesting that his accomplice in the burglary, Anthony Lachette, had actually committed the murder.

“Tony’s laughing his ass off right now because you’re about to watch an innocent man die. This isn’t justice,” he said before putting his head back down and closing his eyes.

When the execution began, Jackson started making a snoring sound, his lips sputtered and his breath began to quicken. Prison officials closed the curtain between the execution chamber and witnesses after about four minutes to check whether he was conscious, calling out twice, “Inmate Jackson, can you hear me?” There was no response.

When the curtain reopened a minute later, Jackson made no more movements or sounds. From start to finish, the execution took about 10 minutes.

Jackson’s execution came after Gov. Jack Markell denied a request for a reprieve late Thursday. Earlier in the night, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for a stay of execution. A small group gathered outside to protest against the death penalty.

This was the first time Delaware included pentobarbital as one of three drugs used to carry out an execution. Delaware switched to the drug after a nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental, the previous drug the state used to sedate an inmate before administering two other death-causing drugs.

Eight other states have already used pentobarbital to carry out executions according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center.

Jackson’s execution followed a series of legal challenges that stretched into the hours before he was executed. His lawyers had argued that Jackson should be allowed to challenge the state’s switch to pentobarbital as an execution drug, saying it posed a risk of pain and suffering.

The courts sided with attorneys for the state of Delaware, however. They said it was time to execute Jackson, who was convicted in the 1992 killing of 47-year-old Hockessin resident Elizabeth Girardi.

“In a perfect world, none of this would have happened,” said Girardi’s daughter Claudia Desaulniers before the execution, which she and her brother Christopher were to attend as witnesses.

Desaulniers, who was 15 when her mother died, said she thinks about her mother every day, calling her a “loving person.” She said even now she is startled at unexpected noises in her home, like a floor creaking, worried she might be the victim of a crime.

According to testimony presented at trial, Girardi was killed after she returned home on April 3, 1992, and found Jackson, then 18, and an accomplice leaving her home with stolen jewelry and other items. While Jackson’s accomplice ran, Jackson used an ax he found in a woodshed to strike Girardi repeatedly in the head.

Lachette, Jackson’s accomplice, testified against him at trial, where it was revealed that the pair planned the burglary to get money to buy marijuana. Lachette pleaded guilty to burglary and conspiracy and was released from prison in 1996.

Two different juries recommended the death penalty for Jackson, the first after deliberating less than two hours. Jackson told a second jury in 1995 that he was a changed person and apologized to Girardi’s family.

“I can’t explain what happened,” he said, according to one news account at the time. “I don’t know what happened – a mistake.”

The jury voted for the death penalty 11-1.

Jackson is the 15th person put to death by Delaware since 1992 when the state again began executions after a decades-long hiatus. The last inmate to be executed by the state was Brian Steckel, who was executed in 2005 for raping and strangling a neighbor, Sandra Lee Long, who burned to death in a fire Steckel set. While awaiting trial in Long’s 1994 murder, Steckel sent more than 75 taunting and threatening letters to people involved in the case, including Long’s mother.

A total of 19 other inmates, all men, are currently on death row in the state.
… Kudos to Delaware.  Goodbye, Mr. Jackson. …

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