Condemned Mississippi killer Berry executed

Published 3:43 pm Thursday, May 22, 2008

The family of Mary Bounds says the execution of her killer, Earl Wesley Berry, brings some relief from a roller coaster of emotions borne over 20 years of appeals.

Berry died by lethal injection at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Asked if he had anything to say, Berry replied: “No comment.”

Berry, 49, is the second inmate executed in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Kentucky’s lethal injection procedure in April. Before the decision, executions had been on hold across the nation for seven months.

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Berry had hoped for a last-minute stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. But Justice Antonin Scalia, then the full court denied his appeal requests.

Corrections officials said Berry asked for a Bible verse to be read before he was put to death.

Berry confessed to abducting Bounds as she left choir practice at First Baptist Church of Houston, Miss., then beating her to death and dumping her body on a rural road in 1987.

“He was a bad motor scooter,” said Chickasaw County Sheriff Jimmy Simmons, who investigated Bounds death as a deputy sheriff. “He was bad. He was a bully. That’s what he was.”

Berry took a Valium after his last meal. Strapped to a metal gurney and dressed in a white T-shirt and red pants, he closed his eyes and appeared to drift off the sleep.

Mary Bounds’ daughter, Jena Watson, and granddaughter, Rebecca Blissard, held hands and cried as they watched Berry.

No member of Berry’s family was present, although he visited with his mother, brother and sister-in-law earlier in the day.

Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps told reporters after the execution that the family of Mary Bounds got justice.

“It is our fervent hope that members of Mrs. Bounds’ family can begin healing,” Epps said as he was surrounded by more than a dozen members of the woman’s family.

Charles Bounds, the victim’s husband, said the past 20 years had taken a lot out of his life. He said he would soon be 80 and Berry’s execution brought him some relief.

“I just think that it took too long. … I had this on my mind for 20 years and it really took a lot out of me,” he said.

Watson said Berry’s action deprived the family of a mother, a grandmother and a friend.

“Tonight we feel that we have received justice,” she said. “There’s never an end to the hurt from a violent crime. There can never fully be closure. You have to learn to do the best you can. Tonight brings finality to a lot of emotional issues.”

Gov. Haley Barbour issued a statement moments after Berry’s execution, saying: “Justice has finally been rendered for this horrible crime.”

Berry’s body was released to a Eupora funeral home.

Berry’s lawyers argued, among other things, that he was mentally retarded and therefore constitutionally barred from being executed. The state countered that Berry had unsuccessfully raised the issue of mental retardation previously and that under federal law, Berry should not be allowed to do so again.