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Sunday, Apr 23, 2017
Crime & Courts

Justices won’t stay execution of Pasco killer Henry

ST. LOUIS ­— The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to grant a last-minute reprieve for a Florida inmate set to be executed in the 1985 killing of his estranged wife and her young son.

The justices this evening turned down an appeal for 63-year-old John Ruthell Henry.

Henry will be put to death tonight, one day after a Georgia inmate was executed in the nation’s first capital punishment since a botched execution in April raised new concerns about lethal injection.

Florida is moving ahead with the execution despite claims that Henry is mentally ill and intellectually disabled.

The state claims anyone with an IQ of at least 70 is not mentally disabled; testing has shown Henry’s IQ at 78, though his lawyers say it should be re-evaluated.

The convicted triple murderer has been on Florida’s death row for 24 years and lost an appeal for a stay of execution last week.

The 63-year-old Henry was convicted in Pasco County of fatally stabbing his wife Suzanne Henry before Christmas in 1985. Gov. Rick Scott signed John Henry’s death warrant for that murder.

He also was convicted in Hillsborough County of stabbing Suzanne Henry’s 5-year-old son from a previous relationship near Plant City a short time later.

Henry pleaded no contest to second-degree murder for fatally stabbing his common-law wife, Patricia Roddy, in 1976.

He served less than eight years in prison and was released in 1983, and was on parole when Suzanne Henry and the boy were killed.

On Tuesday night, Marcus Wellons, 59, received a lethal injection after last-minute appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court were denied. A corrections official said he was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Eastern time. The execution seemed to go smoothly with no noticeable complications.

Wellons’ execution came about an hour before that of inmate John Winfield in Missouri. Winfield was executed by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. Central time, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety said.

Nine executions nationwide have been stayed or postponed since late April, when Oklahoma prison officials halted the execution of Clayton Lockett after noting that the lethal injection drugs weren’t being administered into his vein properly. Lockett’s punishment was halted and he died of a heart attack several minutes later.

Asked Tuesday if he had discussed with the Department of Corrections what happened in Oklahoma and if any changes were needed in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said, “I focus on making sure that we do things the right way here.”

Florida and Missouri trail only Texas as the most active death penalty states. Texas has carried out seven executions this year. Florida has executed five men, and Missouri has executed five.