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Society

Georgia Executes Triple Killer

JACKSON, Ga. — Georgia executed a man April 27 who was convicted in the 1998 killings of a central Georgia trucking company owner and his two children during a home burglary.

Daniel Anthony Lucas became the fifth person the state has executed this year. He was put to death by injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson. Warden Bruce Chatman told witnesses the time of death was 9:54 p.m.

The 37-year-old inmate was sentenced to death for the April 1998 killings of 37-year-old Steven Moss, his 11-year-old son Bryan and 15-year-old daughter Kristin, who interrupted a burglary at their home near Macon in central Georgia. Gerri Ann Moss, the victims’ wife and mother, found their bodies when she arrived at home.

“I would like to say I’m sorry to Mrs. Moss and the family,” Lucas said when given a chance to make a final statement.

He added that he loves his friends and family and then said a short prayer: “All beings are basically good. All beings are basically kind. All beings are basically strong. All beings are basically wise.”

The warden left the room at 9:38 p.m. Records from past executions show the lethal drug generally begins to flow within a couple of minutes of the warden leaving the room, but that is not visible to news media witnesses.

Lucas closed his eyes and appeared to say a prayer, briefly lifting his head and opening his eyes to look at a woman seated in the second row of the witness area. He then closed his eyes and was still within a couple of minutes.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles on April 26 had declined to spare Lucas’ life after holding a clemency hearing.

His lawyers had asked the board to intervene, citing a childhood plagued by drugs and violence and saying he’d been reformed in prison. The board is the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence in Georgia.

His lawyers also turned to the courts to try to stop his execution. They cited the fact that he was 19 at the time of the killings and lacked maturity and judgment.

They wrote that his death sentence was “constitutionally flawed” and argued that the imposition of the death penalty upon people who are under 21 at the time of their crimes is declining sharply.

After a lower court judge rejected those arguments, the state Supreme Court also declined to halt the execution. The justices expressed concern that the challenge wasn’t filed until the day before the scheduled execution but said they fully considered the merits of his case.

Lucas’ lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which issued a brief statement denying his request and providing no explanation for its decision.

Lucas and another man, Brandon Rhode, broke into the Moss home in looking for drugs, cash or things they could sell to get money for drugs, according to court filings.

Bryan Moss saw them through a front window and entered through a back door armed with a baseball bat, prosecutors have said.

They say the two then wrestled Bryan to a chair and Lucas shot him in the shoulder. Lucas then led the boy to a bedroom and shot him multiple times, prosecutors have said.

Rhode met Kristin as she got home from school and forced her to sit on a chair and shot her twice with a pistol, according to court records.

Rhode then ambushed Steven Moss when he arrived home, shooting him four times with the same pistol, the records show. Lucas later shot all three victims again to make sure they were dead, according to court filings.

Rhode, who was also convicted for the killings, was executed in September 2010.

Lucas’ death brings the number of court-ordered executions in Georgia this year to five. That ties a record, set in 1987 and matched last year, for the most executions carried out by the state in a calendar year since the death penalty was reinstated nationwide in 1976.

(KATE BRUMBACK)

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