Executed July 1, 1997 by Electric Chair in Kentucky
W / M / 27 - 44 W / F / 22
41st murderer executed in U.S. in 1997
399th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Kentucky in 1997
1st murderer executed in Kentucky since 1976
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Harold McQueen, Jr.
Harold McQueen, his girlfriend Linda Rose, and his half-brother William Burnell, were driving around Richmond in Harold's car that evening. They had spent the afternoon drinking heavily, smoking marijuana, and taking pills. At around 11:30 p.m., Harold, Keith and Linda drove to the Minit Mart Store on Big Hill Avenue to rob it. Harold drove. He pulled into the parking lot of an apartment complex that backed up to the rear of the Minit Mart. Harold and Keith got out of the car and entered the front door. Linda Rose remained in the car. McQueen ordered the 22 year old clerk, Rebecca O'Hearn, to empty the cash register and the safe. After she complied, McQueen shot her twice with a .22 pistol. According to Rose, Burnell and McQueen emerged from the store, Burnell carrying a bag with the store's surveillance camera, and McQueen carrying three small bags. Rose testified that McQueen told her that he shot O'Hearn twice, and stated that "I know the bitch is dead." McQueen and Burnell then disposed of the surveillance camera in a nearby pond. Apparently, Burnell then left McQueen and Rose, who retired to a motel room for the evening. O'Hearn was found later slumped forward with her hands over her face, on the floor behind the counter. She was shot in the face from a distance of less than six inches. The second shot to the back of her head was fatal, and committed either after he made O'Hearn kneel on the floor or after she fell in a kneeling position. After McQueen and Rose were picked up on unrelated Theft charges, police searched the trailer where they lived, recovering the murder weapon and a bundle of cash and food stamps from the Minit Mart. McQueen and Burnell were tried jointly for robbery and capital murder. Following the jury recommendation against death, accomplice Burnell was sentenced to two 28 year terms of imprisonment.(Paroled in 1988)
W / M / 27 - 44
W / F / 22
McQueen v. Commonwealth, 669 S.W.2d 519 (Ky. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 893 (1984).
McQueen v. Commonwealth, 721 S.W.2d 694 (Ky. 1986), cert. denied, 481 U.S. 1059 (1987).
Karl Keys: The State Sponsored Killing of Harold McQueenHarold was my friend; he was killed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky on July 1, 1997. He was the first person executed in Kentucky in 35 years. Harold forever changed my life. His love and compassion I will never forget -- even if he refused to get a haircut. May God have mercy on us all.
Karl - PS The rest of the webpage I leave to remeber the last days of Harold's life.
Links to News Stories on Harold McQueen.
HAROLD McQUEEN, JR.
Harold McQueen was sentenced to death in 1981 in Richmond, Kentucky, for the January 17, 1981 robbery of a Minit Mart convenience store, and the murder of 22-year-old Rebecca O'Hearn, a cashier at the store. Harold is now 44-years-old. He was sentenced to death at the age of 28. Prior to his capital charges, Harold had been convicted of non-violent crimes, i.e., burglary, pandering, but he had no history of convictions for violent offenses. At the time of the crime, Harold was addicted to heroin, valium and alcohol. He had been introduced to alcohol at the age of ten by his father, the town drunk. By the time he was 13, he was drinking steadily, to the point of blacking out from the alcohol. Soon afterward, he began regularly abusing illegal drugs.
Ironically, he entered the United States Army in a last attempt to straighten out his life. It was there that he was introduced to and became addicted to heroin. His addictions were so overpowering that he was constantly high on drugs, drunk and compelled to consume large quantities of drugs and alcohol in order to reach the highly intoxicated state which his addiction demanded.
In the months and years leading to the crime for which he was sentenced to death, Harold's life spiralled out of control due to drug addiction. An aunt who had grown up with Harold recalls that, at the time: "to look or speak to Harold, Jr. was like looking at, or talking to a stranger. There was nothing there that resembled the Harold, Jr. that we had known. . . .Harold just wasn't there."
By the late 1970s, Harold was heavily addicted to drugs. He could not keep a job, his marriage had failed, and he was stealing in order to obtain drugs. Harold was addicted to the point that he needed injections of heroin throughout the day, every day. An old acquaintance (and ex-heroin addict) of Harold's recalls that: "we did so much that we got weekly deliveries of the drug at my home. . . .[He] was able to get off it for a while, but I turned him on again. . .I feel really bad out that now."
Harold stole from his family in order to keep himself supplied with drugs. An uncle recalls that "he broke in and stole my son's piggy bank to get money for drugs -- and Harold adored my son. . . .the difference between Harold sober and on drugs was like the difference between daylight and dark."
According to Dr. Eljorn Nelson, a psychopharmacologist at the University of Cincinnati, Harold's intoxication at the time of the crime was no longer voluntary. Because of his addiction, drugs and alcohol "had taken on the same significance as eating food, breathing, and drinking water for a normal non-chemically dependent individual."
On the night of the crime, Harold had injected in excess of 150 milligrams of Valium, and had been drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana all day. Medical professionals have evaluated Harold. A neuropsychologist found that Harold suffered frontal lobe brain damage because of his long-term drug abuse. A psychopharmacologist found that Harold could not have formed the intent at the time of the crime to support a conviction for murder. Neither of these experts testified at Harold's death penalty trial; the jury never knew of Harold's drug addiction and abuse problems.
HAROLD'S 1981 TRIAL
Harold, age 28, and his 19-year-old half-brother, Keith Burnell, were tried together for the robbery-murder in Richmond, Kentucky. Although Keith Burnell was an active participant in the crimes, he received the minimum 20-year sentence for murder, and was paroled in 1988. While Burnell's father paid to hire an attorney for his son, Harold was left with a court- appointed attorney, who was paid $1000, the maximum fee for appointed counsel in Kentucky death penalty cases in 1980.
Harold's attorney did very little, if anything, to prepare a defense for Harold. The lawyer did not seek a severed trial, although Burnell's attorney made it clear through his pre- trial motion practice that he would place the blame on Harold.
At trial, the blame was indeed placed on Harold for acting as the leader of the three persons present at the crime scene. Linda Rose, the third person, was never charged and testified against Harold. Weeks before trial, she fled to Arizona, and had to be returned by law enforcement officials to testify. Harold was targeted by both the prosecution and his half-brother co-defendant, as the trigger-person, even though there was no evidence to prove who had shot Becky O'Hearn.
Harold's lawyer did not seek a change of venue in this highly publicized case. He did not cross-examine witnesses effectively. For instance, Harold's defense attorney did not effectively cross--examine Linda Rose, the co-defendant-turned-state witness who was the only person to claim that Harold was the trigger-person, despite the widely divergent accounts she gave pre-trial of what happened on the night of the crime.
Harold's lawyer did not investigate mitigation, although there was ample evidence of Harold's drug abuse and addiction. Harold's family members were not interviewed or presented as witnesses, although they would have testified that Harold's life had spiralled out of control because of drugs. Harold's defense attorney testified at a state post-conviction hearing in 1985 that he did not talk to Harold's family before trial because he felt they had a bad reputation in the community.
The jury heard no evidence of Harold's long-term drug addiction, and resulting brain damage. The jury never knew that Harold had been severely neglected as a child. The jury knew nothing of Harold's demeanor and personality off drugs. They did not know that, as Harold's aunt puts it, "Harold was a caring, sweet child. . . .even as an adult, there wasn't a violent or mean bone in his body."
POST-CONVICTION REVIEW IN HAROLD'S CASE
Harold's Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was denied on June 2, 1997. He will file a Petition for Rehearing on or before June 27, as is his right under that court's Rule 44.
A panel of judges decided 2-1 against Harold in the Sixth Circuit. The dissenting judge stated quite strongly that Harold's death sentence was not fairly obtained and should be vacated. This, in large part, was due to the failure of Harold's poorly compensated, appointed trial attorney to investigate, discover and inform the jury about many very significant aspects of Harold's life, including his brain damage, long-term alcohol and drug addictions, and his abysmal upbringing -- all mitigating evidence, which the United States Supreme Court has said, if presented, must be considered by a jury.
The United States District Court that denied Harold's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus never considered the medical report that found Harold to suffer from brain damage , and to have not had the ability, due to intoxication, to form the requisite criminal intent at the time of the crime. There has been no federal hearing in Harold's case, and no court has considered the mental health evidence that trial counsel could have and should have--but did not--present at Harold's capital trial.
HAROLD MCQUEEN, JR. TODAY
Harold has not committed any violent acts in the 16 years that he has lived on Death Row. Jack Wood, who has worked at Eddyville's Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP)-- Kentucky's only maximum security institution--for 17 years, is currently the Unit Administrator for the entire Death Row population. Mr. Wood has known Harold since Harold came to Death Row. On May 7, 1997, Mr. Wood stated that, but for Harold's death sentence, Harold would not be at KSP because his "custody score is so low he would have been gone [transferred to another institution] years ago for good conduct." Mr. Wood said that while he was not sure, he believed that Harold had the best record of conduct of all death row inmates, and that on average, Death Row prisoners are better behaved than general population inmates at the institution.
Al Parke was the Warden the KSP from July, 1982 through 1984, and later served as Kentucky's Commissioner of Corrections under Governor Martha Layne Collins. Al Parke is currently the Superintendent (Warden) at Indiana State Penitentiary, which houses Indiana's death row population. Superintendent Parke presides over executions in the state of Indiana. Al Parke met Harold McQueen in 1982. As Warden, Parke observed Harold's behavior, and saw Harold again upon his return to visit KSP some years later. Although he does not favor clemency, Parke believes that Harold would not be a threat if released from Death Row into the general prison population.
Ken Thomas, a staff psychologist at KSP who has known and counselled Harold over the past three years, believes that Harold has been a Corrections success story, and that he should not be executed for his crime. Mr. Thomas describes Harold as a deeply spiritual person who is truly remorseful for his past actions. Mr. Thomas has observed Harold to be a positive influence on other prisoners and a mature, introspective individual.
Harold has not used any illicit drugs since 1987. Harold has received two write-ups for marijuana use while on Death Row, but none since 1987. Bobby Waller was the Death Row Unit Administrator in 1983 and 1984, and again in the early 1990s. Mr. Waller recalls that "Harold had some drug-related write-ups when he first came. . . .He was always respectful to me, one of the most behaved inmates on death row. . . .he's a model inmate. I can't say [anything]. . . .bad about him." Harold has acted as an inmate spokesperson, talking with juvenile offenders who visit KSP as part of a program designed to keep juveniles from becoming adult offenders. Harold warns juveniles to stay away from drugs, and shares his own story of drug abuse and addiction problems, and the criminal activity that followed as a result of drugs.
While Harold knows that drugs led him into criminal activity, he does not try to lessen his own personal responsibility for the death of Rebecca O'Hearn by blaming his actions on drugs. Harold is sincerely remorseful for Ms. O'Hearn's death, and the pain and anguish that Ms. O'Hearn's loved ones have suffered. Harold is a productive and responsible member of the prison community. Harold was elected to serve as one of four inmates on the KSP Grievance committee. Harold has taken part in grievance hearings as an inmate representative. Harold has worked for over a decade as a janitor at the prison. KSP corrections officer Tim Fox has worked at the prison for over 10 years, and worked on Death Row for over 2 years. Officer Fox supervised Harold's work, and reports that Harold "has always done the work requested. . . even above what was expected." Kenny Stephens, an engineer who has worked at KSP for 13 years, has supervised Harold's work on a number of projects. Mr. Stephens states that he has "never had a problem with [Harold]. . . .he's a good worker. . . .gets along with staff and inmates."
Harold has been a devout Catholic since 1987. He attends every prison worship service, and prays daily with a rosary. Harold's rosary belonged to Cindy Stephens, the daughter of Paul Stephens, a volunteer chaplain at the prison. Cindy Stephens was murdered twenty years ago. Paul Stephens says that "Harold is a source of strength to his fellow prisoners; he counsels them to live in a way God would approve of." Paul Stephens does not believe Harold deserves to be electrocuted.
Harold has had two death warrants signed over the time that he has been on Death Row. When the first warrant was signed in 1984, the prison psychologist conducted his mandatory interview with Harold. Harold said that he "finds it difficult to wait day by day by day. . . .that he would prefer someone to simply pick him up from his cell and carry him away, rather than be in the predicament of not knowing." The second warrant was signed in 1987. Harold has lived for 16 years not knowing when his execution day might arrive. Over this time, he has become a Corrections success story and has for years been a model prisoner on Death Row. Harold is willing to spend the rest of his natural life in prison, if he is spared electrocution.
Harold, at the age of 44, is not deserving of execution.
HAROLD MCQUEEN'S CRIME
In 1980, Rebecca O'Hearn was twenty-two years old and had recently graduated from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. Ms. O'Hearn, from a family of teachers, planned to return to school to become a school teacher. Rebecca O'Hearn worked evenings at the Minit Mart Convenience Store in Richmond, Kentucky. On Thursday evening, January 17, 1980, she went to work. She worked alone in the store that night.
Harold McQueen, along with his half-brother, William Burnell, and Linda Rose, a woman who had known Keith Burnell for years, were driving around Richmond in Harold's car that evening. They had been in the country that afternoon, and had been drinking at Keith's father's home. Harold, Keith and Linda had spent the afternoon drinking heavily, smoking marijuana, and taking pills.
Harold's drug use had reached chronic proportions by 1980. This day was like many others: he ingested approximately 150 milligrams of Valium, smoked countless marijuana cigarettes, and drank a large amount of whiskey straight from the bottle. Linda Rose and Keith Burnell were drinking heavily and smoking marijuana as well. Court testimony from Harold's trial revealed that Ms. Rose was heavily under the influence of alcohol and Valium on this evening. Harold and his half-brother both had a history of petty crimes in and around the Richmond area. To this day, little remains known about Linda Rose's past, except that she was known around Berea and Richmond for being a heavy drinker and drug user.
At approximately 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 17, 1980, Harold, Keith and Linda went to the home of their friends Billy Hunter and Bertha Lewis. There were eight or nine people in the apartment. People who were present at the apartment that night testified at trial that Harold, Keith Burnell and Linda Rose were intoxicated when they left that night. At around 11:30 p.m., Harold, Keith and Linda drove to the Minit Mart Store on Big Hill Avenue to rob it. Harold drove. He pulled into the parking lot of an apartment complex that backed up to the rear of the Minit Mart. Harold and Keith got out of the car and approached the Minit Mart from behind. Linda Rose remained in the car. In a statement to the police, she admitted that she was passed out from the alcohol and drugs she had been consuming all day.
The two half-brothers were armed with a .22 pistol, and a crowbar between them. Harold and Keith walked through the parking lot, around the store and entered through the front door. They ordered Rebecca O'Hearn to empty the cash register and the safe, and she complied. When they left the store minutes later, Rebecca O'Hearn had been shot twice in the head. She was discovered minutes later by a customer, who notified the police and an ambulance. Ms. O'Hearn died shortly thereafter.
HAROLD MCQUEEN TODAY
Harold McQueen today is wholly unlike the person who committed the crimes for which he has been sentenced to die: Harold is no longer addicted to drugs and alcohol even though he says that others who want them can get them in prison. Harold has spoken to children about his past and warned them about the dangers of crime and drugs. Harold has never been violent with anyone in prison; the crime for which he has been condemned to die is the only violent act in which he has ever been involved. Harold has held a steady job as a janitor for over 10 years and has won awards for his work. Harold has had no disciplinary problems for over 10 years. Harold is well liked by his fellow inmates and by the staff of the prison. Harold is a grandfather who takes pride in a daughter and grandson with whom he has a relationship. Harold still loves his mother and others in his family despite their lack of interest in him when he was younger. Harold regrets his past, the crimes he has committed and the pain he has caused Rebecca O'Hearn's family and his own.
Death Penalty USA Pages by Kuno Sandholzer
Harold McQueen was strapped into the 86-year-old electric chair at the fortress-like Kentucky State Penitentiary and given a 2,100-volt charge at 12:07 a.m. CDT. Prison officials said he clenched his fist and was pronounced dead eight minutes later. He was convicted of killing Rebecca O'Hearn, a 22-year-old store clerk, in a 1980 robbery while he was high on drugs.
``I want to apologize one more time to the O'Hearn family,'' McQueen said in a statement after he was strapped into the electric chair. ``I want to apologize to my own family and I want to say thank you to those who sent me cards letters and prayers, and hope that they continue to oppose the death penalty,'' he said. Officials said McQueen was resigned and ready to die after last-minute legal appeals failed.
His execution was Kentucky's first since 1962 -- 10 years before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed capital punishment in 1972, a ban it reversed four years later. He was the first of the state's death row inmates to exhaust all appeals since the modern-day return of capital punishment. Officials spent thousands of dollars refurbishng the chair to make sure it was in working order. More than 160 other men were executed at the prison in earlier years. A number of prayer vigils were held by capital punishment opponents in Eddyville before the execution.
The U.S. and Kentucky Supreme Courts both rejected last-minute appeals to stay the execution. In his final hours, McQueen was visited by his mother and his girlfriend and made telephone calls to relatives and friends to say good-bye, prison officials said. McQueen spent his final moments with his spiritual advisor and his attorney. He asked for cheesecake for his last meal.
The Lexington Prosecutor
Killer Moves A Step Closer To Execution
Harold McQueen, Jr., who was sentenced to death in 1981 for killing a 22-year-old convenience-store clerk during a robbery in Richmond, could be the first person executed in Kentucky in 35 years. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to hear McQueen’s appeal. A three-judge panel of that court refused last month to set aside McQueen’s death sentence. The court’s decision increased the chances that McQueen, 44, of Berea, will be executed sometime this year.
The last step is for McQueen to ask the U.S. Supreme Court for the third time to review the case. It has already refused to twice. If McQueen doesn’t win, his normal appeal process would be over and his execution could be scheduled this year. McQueen could be executed this summer at the earliest. Kentucky’s last execution was in March 1962, when Kelly Moss of Henderson County died in the electric chair for murdering his stepfather.
Does Anyone Care About The Innocent Woman He Brutally Murdered?
Seventeen years ago, on January 17, 1980, Harold McQueen brutally murdered twenty-two-year-old Rebecca Bryan O’Hearn in Richmond, Kentucky. Becky was working alone that night at the Richmond Minit Mart. She had just graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and was working in order to save enough money to pay tuition at Morehead State University to earn a Master’s Degree. McQueen shot and killed an innocent young woman in cold blood and left her to die on the floor with all of her hopes and dreams for the future.
Harold McQueen was 27 years old when he murdered Becky O’Hearn. He began his criminal career at the age of 13. His juvenile record included Breaking and Entering, Shoplifting, Truancy, Destroying City Property and Public Intoxication. His adult record includes Cold Checks, Disorderly Conduct, Violation of a Peace Bond, Public Intoxication, Burglary, Pandering, Desertion of the U.S. Army, Hit and Run, Violation of Parole, First Degree Robbery and Murder.
On the day of the murder McQueen and his girlfriend, Linda Rose, spent the day driving around in the country smoking marijuana, taking valiums and drinking. At about 6:00 p.m. they picked up his 19-year-old half-brother. At about 11:00 p.m. McQueen told Rose that "he had some business to take care of," and drove to the Minit Mart and parked in the back. McQueen and his half-brother got out of the car. McQueen took his gun with him and told Rose that he would be back in a minute. Shortly thereafter Rose heard a gunshot. McQueen and his half-brother returned to their vehicle with some bags. McQueen said, "I know the bitch is dead."
At approximately 11:30 p.m. a Park Ranger stopped by the Minit Mart. He found Becky O’Hearn face down on the floor behind the counter. She was on her knees and her face was in her hands. She had been shot in the face from a distance of three to six inches. Becky had also been shot in the back of her neck. That bullet fragmented and entered both her spinal canal and brain stem. Approximately $1,500 cash was taken from the Minit Mart along with a bundle of food stamps. Both the cash register and safe were open. Opening the safe required two keys, one of which was hidden. That each key had to be turned in a certain manner and sequence indicated that Becky was trying to do what she was told.
Earlier McQueen had told Linda Rose that "if he ever robbed a place he would never leave an eyewitness. He would leave them lying dead." Late that January night Harold McQueen did just that. He shot and killed an innocent young woman in cold blood and left her to die on the floor with all of her hopes and dreams for the future. All for $1,500. A Madison County jury determined that Harold McQueen deserved to die for what he did to Becky O’Hearn. Finally, after seventeen years it appears that Harold McQueen will have to answer for the horrible thing he did. It’s about time!
Convicted murderer Harole McQueen will be put to death in the electric chair July 1, Governor Paul Patton ordered yesterday. Patton signed an execution warrant for McQueen, 44, who shot and killed a clerk while robbing a convenience store in January 1980. Barring any court-ordered stay, prison officials will take McQueen from his cell at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville, strap him into the electric chair, and, as soon as possible after the clock passes midnight, execute him. The chair uses 2 charges: a 1st at 2,100 volts for 15 seconds, and the 2nd at 250 volts for 105 seconds. It would be the 1st execution in Kentucky since March, 1962.
McQueen's attorney, Randall Wheeler, said yesterday that he was disappointed, adding that "I still think there are major problems with the fairness of the trial that Mr. McQueen got." Patton said in a prepared statement that the courts have thoroughly reviewed McQueen's conviction and death sentence and upheld them.
The father of the woman McQueen killed has declined comment on the case in recent months, but in a letter to Patton last week, Charles O'Hearn of Louisville described how McQueen shot his daughter, Becky, 22, in the face after she had quietly complied with an order to open the safe, then shot her again in the back of the neck as she knelt crying on the floor. O'Hearn said in the letter: "I urge you to sign the death warrant and set an execution date."
It is not certain that McQueen will be executed on July 1. He has filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that it would be unconstitutional to kill him in the electric chair because it is a cruel and unusual form of punishment. His attorney in that case, David Friedman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, said he will seek a preliminary injunction to block the state from executing McQueen in the electric chair until the case is resolved.
A convicted cop-killer in Florida won a stay of execution earlier this year with a similar challenge to the chair, based on a March 25 execution in which the hood covering the head of the condemned man burst into flame. Wheeler said he will also seek a stay of execution in state court and will file a clemency petition asking Patton to spare McQueen's life. McQueen is now a devout Catholic who is truly sorry for what he did and has been rehabilitated, supporters say.
Patton heard a plea for mercy yesterday just hours before ordering an execution date for McQueen. In a 17-minute meeting, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly of Lousiville and Bishop J. Kendrick Williams, head of the Diocese of Lexington, asked Patton to commute McQueen's death sentence to life in prison without parole. The Catholic church teaches it is wrong for the state or any human to take a life -- a stance that not all faiths share.
Williams said that "we are convinced that vengeance through killing should not be an option in our society." Kelly added that "vengeance belongs to the Lord. And life belongs to the Lord." Patton said the people of Kentucky, through their lawmakers, have said they favor allowing juries to decide whether convicted killers should be sentenced to death. He stated that "I will not, through the power of clemency, substitute my judgment for that of the General Assembly, the courts and the juries of the Commonwealth." Patton supports capital punishment.
State prison officials are prepared for McQueen's execution. The state tests the electric chair periodically and spent $32,000 this year to refurbish it with newe wiring, controls and straps. If this execution goes ahead as scheduled, McQueen may be the last man put to death in Kentucky's electric chair, which was built in 1910 and has been used to electrocute 162 men.
A legislative committee is set next week to approve adding injection of lethal drugs as an execution option. This is the primary method in 32 of the 38 states that use the death penalty; Kentucky is 1 of only 6 states that have the electric chair as their only option. Representative Mike Bowling, chairman of the Joint Interim Judiciary Committee, said Patton has told him he would add lethal injection to the agenda if there is a special legislative session before the end of the year, which is likely. That means lethal injection could win final legislative approval before the end of this year, too late for McQueen to choose it but before any of the other 30 men on death row exhaust their appeals. Bowling said he would favor putting off McQueen's execution to give him the same option, adding that "the point is this: he is still going to be put to death."
McQueen has faced death warrants before. Governor Martha Layne Collins signed 1 in 1984 and Patton signed 1 in 1996. Both expired because he had not yet exhausted all 9 stages of his court appeals. He reached the end of those appeals June 2, when the US Supreme Court declined a 3rd time to hear his case. It is most unlikely that the high court will grant his attorneys' request to reconsider. The earliest date Patton could have chosen for McQueen's execution was 25 days after the Supreme Court's decision, or June 27.
The Kentucky Post Online (July 1, 1997)
"McQueen Executed," by Michael Collins (Post Frankfort Bureau Chief)
EDDYVILLE - He was calm, almost peaceful, as he was led into the execution chamber and the large, leather straps of the electric chair were buckled across his chest and waist. He spoke softly, apologizing first to the family of Rebecca O'Hearn, his victim. ''I just want to apologize one more time to the O'Hearns,'' Harold McQueen Jr. said, moments before he became the first person to be executed in Kentucky's electric chair since 1962. ''I'd also like to apologize to my family. They're victims as well, in a way. Thanks to everyone who sent me cards, letters and prayers. And to everyone who sent me that, tell them to keep fighting the death penalty.'' Eyes closed, he nodded as his spiritual adviser, Paul Stevens, said a short prayer on his behalf. Then, he uttered his last words to the man with whom he spent the last hours of his life. ''I love you, Father,'' he told Stevens. Over McQueen's shoulder, three anonymous executioners stood behind one-way glass, poised to press three plungers that would send a maximum of 2,100 volts into McQueen.
McQueen, three weeks shy of his 45th birthday, today became the 163rd person executed in Kentucky. He was put to death in the electric chair at 12:07 a.m. at the Kentucky State Penitentiary, where he had been on Death Row for nearly 17 years.
The only visible movement as 2,100 volts of electricity coursed through his body for 15 seconds was in his hands, which jerked and balled up into a fist. Smoke rose from the electrodes on his right ankle. At 12:11 a.m., a physician's assistant walked into the death chamber and unstrapped McQueen's right arm. He placed two gloved fingers to McQueen's neck to check for a pulse, then a doctor repeated the procedure. At 12:15 a.m., McQueen was pronounced dead. Five minutes later, the official announcement was made. ''The sentence of death has been carried out for Harold McQueen,'' said Michael Bradley, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. Bradley said the state's only electric chair, refurbished earlier this year at a cost of $32,000, performed ''to perfection.'' After a post-mortem examination performed by Dr. David Jones, the state's chief medical examiner, the body was taken to Berea, where funeral arrangements will be made.
Throughout the day, more than 100 National Guard troops and 50 state police officers stood guard at the castle-like prison overlooking Lake Barkley. Three officers from the Department of Fish and Wildlife patrolled the area in boats. Bradley said the officers were placed on duty as a precaution in the event of a disturbance among the 827 other inmates. Prisoners were confined to their cells at 6 a.m. as a precaution. The only sign of unrest came just as the execution was about to begin. Prisoners housed in a cell above the execution chamber banged on the front of their cells in a final tribute to their former comrade and friend. Barry Banister, a spokesman for the prison, said the extra security precautions will remain in effect until today, when the prison is expected to resume normal operations.
On a firing range beside the prison, more than 200 protesters gathered for a peaceful demonstration. A handful were death penalty advocates, but most were opponents. Police said three people were arrested for drug possession. McQueen's execution capped a day in which his attorneys worked feverishly on a series of last-minute legal maneuvers in federal and state courts to save him from the electric chair. They formally asked Gov. Paul Patton to grant clemency. Patton, though, did not budge. ''I do not believe it is proper, through the power of clemency, to substitute my judgment for that of the General Assembly, the courts and the juries of this commonwealth,'' Patton said.
With clemency denied, McQueen's lawyers filed suit in Franklin Circuit Court, which also turned down their request. Later, the state Supreme Court rejected that claim as well. The attorneys also sued in Lyon Circuit Court, claiming that prison officials were not giving them adequate access to McQueen. That issue was resolved when the attorneys agreed to follow a schedule that had been approved by McQueen on Monday. Five other suits were pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which turned down all five late Monday night and cleared the way for the execution to take place.
McQueen had been on Death Row for 17 years for the 1980 murder of 22-year-old Ms. O'Hearn during a robbery at the Richmond convenience store where she worked. Two weeks ago, McQueen said that the shooter was his half-brother, William Keith Burnell. Burnell was convicted as an accomplice in the robbery and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was paroled in 1988.
Ms. O'Hearn's father, Charles O'Hearn, had asked to be a witness to the execution. That request was turned down because state law makes no provision for the family members of victims to witness an execution, Bradley said.
McQueen's last day began early. He arose at 5:30 a.m.; two hours later, he began seeing visitors, including his mother, Helen Burnell, and his aunt, Virginia Ballinger, both of whom left the prison without talking to reporters. His girlfriend, June Linville of Berea, said she met with McQueen for several hours. The execution was witnessed by 17 people, including nine members of the media, three representatives requested by McQueen and five officials from prisons across the state. No members of his family asked to view the execution. Rosemary Butler, a friend of McQueen, was among those who witnessed the execution. ''It was a very painful experience to watch him die,'' she said. ''I think we are all victims here.'' Word of McQueen's death came as his supporters were holding a candlelight vigil on a firing range near the prison. Upon the announcement, Ms. Linville threw her candle to the ground and began to sob.
(State law restricts the number of reporters who can witness an execution. The Associated Press is given a seat, and some of the account of McQueen's death in this story is drawn from the reporting of AP correspondent Ted Bridis)
The Kentucky Post Online (July 1, 1997)
"Limo Carried Bad Luck for Winner of Contest," by By Michael Collins.
EDDYVILLE - Phillip Payne got the jitters just before the white stretch limo pulled up in front of his Louisville house. It was his first execution, his first limousine ride. Payne, a 21-year-old convenience store cashier, won a trip to the Kentucky State Penitentiary to witness the spectacle around Kentucky's first execution in 35 years. Billed as a ''totally fried weekend,'' the trip was a promotional contest sponsored by a Louisville radio station.
Payne, who won the grand prize drawing, and his fiancee, Roxie Rusher, arrived at Eddyville in style - in the back seat of the limo. But the couple and a radio station employee were stopped near the front entrance. The radio employee was allowed inside the media briefing room. But Payne and his fiancee were directed to an outdoor area.
Then, as their limo was going through a security checkpoint, a state trooper spotted marijuana in the car. The limo driver, David W. Luckett, 29, was handcuffed and charged with possession and other counts. The limo was towed. Payne and Ms. Rusher rode back home in a radio station van - one with no back seat. Payne offered no apologizes, even to those who suggested the whole affair was in bad taste. ''They can stay home if they want,'' he said.
The Kentucky Post Online (July 1, 1997)
McQueen's Victim Recalled as Friendly (Associated Press)
RICHMOND - Each morning before his 7:30 work shift, William Teater stopped at the Minit Mart on Big Hill Avenue for a doughnut and a soft drink. He was greeted by Rebecca O'Hearn, a friendly young woman who knew him by name. On the morning of Jan. 18, 1980, his ritual was interrupted. He saw police cars in the parking lot and assumed the store had been robbed. When the door was unlocked he found something much worse: the manager was mopping up blood from behind the counter. Ms. O'Hearn had been shot by Harold McQueen during her night shift.
The manager was crying, Teater said. ''He was standing there mopping the blood. It was something you never forget.''
McQueen was executed early today for Ms. O'Hearn's murder. On Monday evening, just a few hours before McQueen's execution, Teater entered the convenience store - now under different ownership - and greeted Wesley Masters, who was working the night shift. ''All of us thought so much of her,'' recalled Teater. Teater worked back then for a plumbing business and now works at a hospital. ''If you came in here in a bad mood, she would have you laughing.''
Teater said he also knew McQueen, who was a few years behind him in school. ''I feel bad for his family, especially his mother in Berea,'' Teater said. Teater said a conversation with Ms. O'Hearn the day before her murder is what stands out in his mind. ''She told me, "Just a few more days and I'm out of here and making some real money,' '' he said. Masters, meanwhile, said he tries not to think about what happened that night 17 years ago. ''If you get thinking about it, you just sit around nervous all night,'' he said.
McQueen v. Commonwealth, 669 S.W.2d 519 (Ky. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 893 (1984).
Defendant was convicted in the Madison Circuit Court, James S. Chenault, J., of first-degree robbery and murder in the course thereof, and he appealed. The Supreme Court, Gant, J., held that: (1) denial of defendant's request for either a statistician or an expert on death-qualified jurors was not an abuse of discretion where the individual's personal attendance at a hearing, if any could be held, would not have enhanced his treatises on the subject; (2) indefinite, ambiguous reference made by a police officer to a "polygraph examiner" while being cross-examined by defense counsel in connection with officer's investigation of a witness for State in case was not prejudicially erroneous inasmuch as it did not amount to a statement that any test had been administered or, if so, to whom it had been administered; (3) it was not error to allow the Commonwealth to bring to the attention of the jury that the victim was a living person, more than just a nameless void left somewhere on the face of the community; and (4) sentence of death imposed upon conviction of first- degree robbery and murder in the course thereof was not imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor and was supported by aggravating circumstances in case. Affirmed. Leibson, J., dissented and filed opinion.
Appellant was convicted of first degree robbery and murder in the course thereof, *521 and sentenced to 20 years and death, respectively. The crimes occurred on January 17, 1980, during an armed robbery of a Minit Mart, the store clerk being shot in the head from a distance of three to six inches and then through the back of the neck. The evidence of guilt was so overwhelming it will not be discussed herein, except as it relates to assignment of error by appellant.
McQueen v. Commonwealth, 721 S.W.2d 694 (Ky. 1986), cert. denied, 481 U.S. 1059 (1987).
Defendant brought Rule 11.42 motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and challenging conviction of murder, robbery and sentence of death. The Madison Circuit Court, James S. Chenault, J., overruled defendant's motion and defendant appealed. The Supreme Court, Wintersheimer, J., held that: (1) defendant was not deprived of effective assistance of counsel at trial or penalty phase of trial; (2) request by defendant to interview jurors to determine impact of dismissal of juror upon verdict was properly denied; (3) defendant was not denied fair hearing by Court's refusal to recognize proposed expert death penalty attorney; (4) testimony of attorney and admission of private memorandum against defendant's counsel was correctly refused; and (5) defendant was not denied due process of law due to court's refusal to order provision of funds necessary to pay expert witnesses for Rule 11.42 hearing. Affirmed.