Lawyer: No reprieve for Alabama inmate hours from execution

FILE - This photo provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows Michael Brandon Samra. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey refused a reprieve for Samra, an inmate set for execution Thursday, May 16, 2019, night for a quadruple killing that occurred after a dispute over a pickup truck, the prisoner's lawyer said. (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP)
FILE - This photo provided by the Alabama Department of Corrections shows Michael Brandon Samra. His attorney has asked the governor to halt his Thursday, May 16, 2019 lethal injection while a Kentucky court weighs the appropriateness of the death penalty for people who were under 21 at the time of their crimes. Samra was 19 when he participated in the 1997 slayings in Shelby County of four people, including two children. (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP)

ATMORE, Ala. — A man condemned to die for his role in a quadruple killing that followed a dispute over a pickup truck was set to be executed Thursday evening in Alabama, hours after a defense lawyer said the governor denied a reprieve.

The decision by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey apparently cleared the way for Michael Brandon Samra, 41, to be put to death by lethal injection since the defense said it didn't plan last-minute appeals.

Steven Sears, a lawyer for Samra, said he received the denial from Ivey's office about eight hours before the scheduled evening execution at the state prison in Atmore. The clemency request had highlighted the fact that Samra was 19 at the time of the killings.

Ivey's staff did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Samra and a friend, Mark Duke, were convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Duke's father, the father's girlfriend and the woman's two elementary-age daughters in 1997. The two adults were shot and the children had their throats slit. Evidence showed that Duke planned the killings because he was angry his father wouldn't let him use his pickup.

Though Duke and Samra were both originally convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, Duke's sentence was overturned because he was 16 at the time, and the Supreme Court later banned executing inmates younger than 18 at the time of their crimes.

Samra was 19 at the time and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay his execution while the Kentucky Supreme Court considers whether anyone younger than 21 at the time of a crime should be put to death, but the justices refused.

Samra's request for a gubernatorial reprieve was based on similar grounds. It also said Duke was more to blame for the killings than Samra.

Court documents show Duke and Samra killed the four at a home in Pelham, a Birmingham suburb, on March 23, 1997. The day before, Mark Duke and his father, Randy Duke, got into a heated argument over the man's refusal to let the son borrow his truck.

After enlisting friends to help, Mark Duke killed his father with a gunshot to the face and Samra shot the man's girlfriend, Dedra Mims Hunt, who survived and fled to another part of the house.

Mark Duke found the woman in a bathroom and shot her, court documents show. Out of bullets, he then used a knife to slit the throat of the woman's 6-year-old daughter, Chelisa Hunt. Samra cut the throat of the woman's 7-year-old daughter, Chelsea Hunt, as she begged for mercy while Duke held the child down.

In a letter to the governor seeking mercy for the inmate, Samra's lawyer had said his client confessed to the slayings, expressed remorse and participated only at Mark Duke's request.

Two other men who were teenage friends of Samra and Mark Duke at the time of the killings served prison sentences for lesser roles. David Layne Collums and Michael Lafayette Ellison, both now 39, were accused of helping plan and cover up the killings.

Another execution is scheduled Thursday in Tennnessee, that of 68-year-old Don Johnson, who was condemned to die for the 1984 suffocation of his wife in Memphis.

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