Death Penalty

Inmate, 83, is executed in death of federal appeals judge

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An 83-year-old inmate executed Thursday for a 1989 mail bombing that killed a federal appeals judge is the oldest person put to death in the modern era of capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Walter Leroy Moody Jr. was executed in Alabama for the death of Judge Robert Vance of the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, report the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR and Vance had been part of an en banc court that refused to overturn Moody’s conviction for possessing a pipe bomb that detonated and injured his wife.

Moody was also convicted in the mail-bombing death of civil rights lawyer Robert Robinson of Savannah, Georgia, which occurred two days after Vance’s. Prosecutors have said they believed the Robinson bombing was a diversion.

Investigators believed Moody concocted a fictitious group to disguise his motive. One letter sent in the name of the group—Americans for a Competent Federal Judicial System—was delivered to the home of L. Martelle Layfield Jr., a former chair of the ABA Journal’s Board of Editors. Moody was apparently unaware that Layfield had died three months before.

The letter, with a December 1989 postmark, told Layfield he must notify all federal judges and lawyers that they “have become targets for assassination because of the federal courts’ callous disregard for the administration of justice.” The letter said Layfield would be killed if he did not carry out the demand.

Moody was convicted on related federal charges in 1991, before the state convictions, and his lawyers had maintained before his execution that he could not be put to death by Alabama until he had served his federal sentence of seven life terms, plus 400 years in prison.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions notified the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday that he consents to Alabama’s custody of Moody to carry out the execution. Sessions was the attorney general of Alabama when the state convicted Moody and sentenced him to death.

Moody has maintained he did not send the bombs that killed Vance and Robinson.

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