In 1986, Stephen West was convicted of kidnapping and fatally stabbing a woman and her 15-year-old daughter. The 56-year-old also had been convicted of raping the teen before killing her.
Now, 33 years later, the state of Tennessee has finally executed him by way of the electric chair.
On Thursday, West was pronounced dead at 7:27 p.m., according to the Tennessee Department of Correction.
“The death sentence of Stephen West was executed by means of electrocution on Aug. 15, 2019, in accordance with the laws of the state of Tennessee,” a statement from the department read.
His execution was carried out at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.
West got to choose his last meal. He picked a Philly cheesesteak and french fries.
Up until his death, West had denied he was the killer. At the time, he was 23. He claimed his then-17-year-old accomplice killed 51-year-old Wanda Romines and her 15-year-old daughter, Sheila Romines.
That juvenile co-defendant received a life sentence, with parole possible in 11 years.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee made the decision late Tuesday afternoon to deny the death row inmate’s clemency application, which said West had been taking powerful medication to treat mental illness.
Since August 2018, four inmates have been executed in Tennessee.
Of them, two chose the electric chair, saying it would be a quicker and less painful way to die than the three-drug method. The other two chose the lethal injection.
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When Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned his position in late 2017, the country waited to see who President Trump would appoint to the prestigious position. William Barr was the President’s selection and the now Attorney General has announced a monumental change in the criminal justice system: America will once again implement capital punishment.
It has been 16 years since the last convict actually received the fatal sentence. In fact, only three people have been federally executed since 1988. Attorney General William Barr plans to execute five more within the next six months, CNBC’s Tucker Higgins reports.
“The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system,” the Attorney General said and was published in an official press release from the Department of Justice.
However, many are in staunch opposition to the announcement. Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty writes:
“that the federal government will resume executing death-row prisoners after a 16-year hiatus goes against the principles conservatives hold dear: limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the protection of the sanctity of human life.”
Higgins reports that Director of the Federal Capital Habeas Project Ruth Friedman says:
“the federal death penalty is arbitrary, racially-biased, and rife with poor lawyering and junk science. Problems unique to the federal death penalty include over-federalization of traditionally state crimes and restricted judicial review… These and other concerns, including troubling questions about the new execution protocol, are why there must be additional court review before the federal government can proceed with any execution.”
However, the makeup of the 5 convicts is diverse including 3 Caucasians, one African American and one Native American. The Department of Justice additionally proclaimed through its press release that:
“Each of these inmates has exhausted their appellate and post-conviction remedies, and currently no legal impediments prevent their executions.”
The first prisoner listed in the press release to face execution is Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist. In 1996, Lee, along with an accomplice, robbed and kidnapped Frederick Mueller, a gun dealer, along with his wife and 8 year old step-daughter. The Department of Justice writes:
“after robbing and shooting the victims with a stun gun, Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of three into the Illinois bayou.”
Another prisoner to be executed is Lezmond Mitchell, who murdered 63-year old Alyce Slim by stabbing her 33 times in 2001, according to Cronkite News’ Miranda Faulkner. Mitchell then forced the woman’s 9-year old granddaughter to sit beside the corpse for more than a half an hour before he too killed the young girl. The Department of Justice says he:
“slit the girl’s throat twice, crushed her head with 20-pound rocks, and severed and buried both victims’ heads and hands.”
Wesley Ira Purkey will also be put to death around the New Year. Purkey is responsible for the rape and dismemberment of a 16-year old Missouri girl before leaving the remnants of her body in a septic pond. The Department of Justice press release also reveals that Purkey also beat an 80-year old woman with a claw hammer. The elderly woman was a disabled polio survivor and relied on a cane to get around.
The press release states that Alfred Bourgeois will also be executed. The document states that Bourgois:
“physically and emotionally tortured, sexually molested, and then beat to death his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.”
WGNO elaborates on the 17 year old story stating that Bouregois was a trucker travelling with his wife and daughter. When the toddler’s potty accidentally spilled in the truck, Bourgeois grabbed the child and slammed her head into the front and side windows of the truck repeatedly.
He delayed in seeking help and attempted to cover up the assault stating that the child had fallen from the truck.
Finally, the last of the five to be put to death is Dustin Lee Honken, a drug dealer who murdered two men who were supposed to testify against him. He also took the lives of a small family including a single, working mother and her two girls aged 10 and 6, the press release reports.
President Trump has been a long -time supporter of capital punishment having campaigned on the promise. However, it was hardly his first public decry in support of the policy. In 1989, long before his public service, Trump took out a full page ad in the Daily News writing “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY” and “BRING BACK THE POLICE” GQ’s Jay Willis reports.
In stark contrast, Democratic hopefuls for the presidency have been disavowing the practice.
The Justice Department concludes its press statement with the declaration that it will pursue more executions in the future.