Tonight’s Execution: Robert Gleason, Virginia

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. For up-to-the-minute updates, follow Punishable by Death on Twitter.

Update: Robert Gleason has been executed.

This undated file photo provided by the Virginia Department of Corrections shows the electric chair that was used in the execution of death row inmate Brandon Wayne Hedrick on July 20, 2006, at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. (AP Photo/Virginia Department of Corrections, File)

This undated file photo provided by the Virginia Department of Corrections shows the electric chair that was used in the execution of death row inmate Brandon Wayne Hedrick on July 20, 2006, at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. (AP Photo/Virginia Department of Corrections, File)

The first execution of 2013 was unique in several ways. Robert Gleason, 42, scheduled for execution tonight at 9 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va., not only volunteered for execution, but asked to die by electrocution. He was the first inmate to choose the electric chair over lethal injection since 2010.

For years Gleason had been pushing for his own death, saying he needed to be stopped and execution was the only way to do it. According to the Bristol Herald Courier, “such a request is seen only among 10 percent of the nation’s death row population, according to statistics generated by the Death Penalty Information Center.”

Gleason was originally serving a life sentence for the shooting death of Mike Jamerson. According to The Associated Press, “despite there being little evidence against him, Gleason admitted to shooting Jamerson, whose son was cooperating in a federal investigation into a methamphetamine ring that Gleason was involved in.” While incarcerated at Wallens Ridge State Prison, Gleason became frustrated that officials wouldn’t move his cellmate, Harvey Watson, who was mentally disturbed, after Gleason complained about constant singing, yelling and other irritating behavior. In 2009 Gleason hogtied, beat and strangled the 63-year-old Watson, and asked for the death penalty.

“I murdered that man cold-bloodedly,” Gleason told the AP in 2010. “I planned it and I’m gonna do it again. Someone needs to stop it. The only way to stop me is to put me on death row.”

After Watson’s murder, Gleason was moved to the state’s only supermax prison, where inmates are isolated 23 hours a day. Frustrated that the system wasn’t moving quickly enough, he strangled 26-year-old Aaron Cooper, through the wire fence of an adjoining  recreation cage in July 2010. He then warned that he would continue to kill if he wasn’t given the death penalty.

In September of 2012, he received two death sentences. Since the trial, he has pushed to advance his execution, waiving his appeals since conviction and fighting his attorneys, who are trying to file last-minute appeals to save his life.

“If these guys are going to go on playing these games and prolong things, I’m not going to be a good little [expletive] boy,” he told the Bristol Herald Courier in a telephone interview.

His lawyers claim that he is mentally ill, and has suffered from paranoia, delusional thinking, anxiety and other afflictions. Their court filings describe his life as “profoundly disturbed and traumatic,” following years of child abuse, depression and other mental health issues.

However, Gov. Bob McDonnell has already decided against blocking the execution, saying Gleason showed no remorse for the crimes. The U.S. Supreme Court also turned down an unwanted stay approximately an hour before the execution was scheduled to begin.

Gleason was strapped into the state’s electric chair at 9 p.m. The Bristol Herald Courier has a detailed description of the process:

He is scheduled to be strapped into a 104-year-old chair made of reddish, brown oak and fitted with brass fixtures and large, black leather straps. The chair is housed on the other side of the state in a prison in Jarratt, Va.

At 9 p.m., corrections officers will strap a metal skull cap onto his shaved head and a leather mask over much of his face.

It will happen in a small, cinderblock room with a two-way window separating him, the warden and guards from a handful of state civilian witnesses and news reporters. One corrections officer will hold a telephone that has an open line to the governor’s office, just in case there is a last-minute pardon.

Barring any last-minute legal miracles, more than 1,000 volts of electricity will race down an electrical contact strapped to a shaved part of his right leg. The lethal jolts will flow for a pair of 90-second cycles, with a slight pause between them. Five long minutes after the second jolt, a physician will hold a stethoscope to Gleason’s chest and check for signs of life.

Gleason spent his final hours without any visitors, according to local reporter Michael Owens.

As Gleason wanted, no final stays came through, and the execution proceeded on time at 9 p.m. According to a report by Owens on Tricities.com, “Robert C. Gleason Jr. died with fists partially clinched and smoke rising from his body.”

Gleason’s last words were, “Well, I hope Percy ain’t going to wet the sponge. Put me on the highway to Jackson and call my Irish buddies. Pog mo thoin. God bless.” Pog mo thoin is Gaelic for “kiss my ass.”

Gleason told the Herald Courier he asked for the chair because he fears lethal injection is incredibly painful, but inmates haven’t been able to convey that because the lethal injection drugs leave them paralyzed and unable to speak during the process.

“I’ve been reading up on this since this all started,” he once told the Herald Courier. “I think electrocution’s quicker.”

Another reason for his choice, according to the AP: He doesn’t want to go out lying down.

“I can’t do that,” he said. “I’d rather be sitting up.”

Virginia had no executions and no death sentences in 2012.

Related Reading: 

Gleason Will Die Wednesday Night in Virginia’s Electric Chair

Gleason Set to Die Wednesday by Electrocution

Robert Gleason, Inmate Who Asked To Die, Will Be Executed

Robert Gleason Jr., Virginia Inmate Who Asked For Death Penalty, Due to be Executed

‘I’m Gonna Do It Again’

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