Time runs out for convicted serial killer Alfredo Prieto

The twice-convicted murderer was executed in Virginia Thursday night, despite concerns over injection drugs and insistence from his lawyers that he suffered from intellectual disability.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/AP
Patrick A. Hope, member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing the 47th district in Arlington County, bows his head as he participates in a moment of silence during an anti-death penalty vigil in reaction to the planned execution of Alfredo Prieto, near the Clarendon metro station in Arlington, Va., Thursday. The twice-condemned serial killer who claimed he was intellectually disabled was executed in Virginia on Thursday after a series of last-minute appeals failed.

Alfredo Preito became the first inmate to be executed in Virginia in almost three years on Thursday. He was pronounced dead at 9:17 p.m. at the Greensville Correction Center after receiving a lethal injection.

Mr. Prieto was convicted of the 1988 murder of a Virginia couple and the rape and murder of a 15-year-old California girl. California, which had put Prieto on death row, extradited him to Virginia.

Prieto appeared calm as he entered the execution chamber at 8:53 p.m., according to the Associated Press. His final statement was a show of gratitude. “I would like to say thanks to all my lawyers, all my supporters and all my family members.... Get this over with,” he said. 

Just a few hours before, his execution was less certain. As reported by The Christian Science Monitor, his lawyers had made an appeal to the state of Virginia to spare his life. The appeal centered on concern over quality of one of the lethal injection drugs the state intended to use. A federal judge approved a stay of execution on Wednesday and called for a hearing.

The state of Texas had supplied the sedative pentobarbital, which was to be used in the execution to ensure there was no gratuitous pain in the execution. Prieto’s lawyers questioned the efficacy of the drug and requested time to examine the provider and quality.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office pointed to over 24 executions carried out in Texas over the last two years without issue.

US District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson lifted the temporary ban blocking Prieto’s execution on Thursday. His decision came after Prieto’s lawyers failed to adequately show that the drugs were unsafe.

Prieto’s lawyers also appealed to the Supreme Court citing Prieto’s low IQ as an intellectual disability. An intellectual disability would have made Prieto ineligible for the death penalty, but the court declined to grant his request.

Robert Lee, an attorney for Prieto, said in a statement after the execution, “Tonight the Commonwealth executed a man without knowing whether he has intellectual disability or not, using drugs that are far beyond their approved date of use.”

Authorities have said Preito has been linked to as many as six other killings in California and Virginia. He was not prosecuted because he was already on death row at the time. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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