By Mark Robinson
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – The 4th U.S. Circuit Court Appeals on Tuesday rejected a last-ditch legal effort to halt Virginia’s first execution since August 2011.
The court denied a request for an emergency stay filed Monday to prevent the execution of Robert C. Gleason Jr.
Gleason, who was sentenced to death after strangling two inmates while serving a life sentence for a 2007 murder in Amherst County, has not sought to appeal his death sentence and dismissed his legal counsel. His execution is scheduled for 9 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 16).
Concerns over Gleason’s mental health prompted the emergency request, which was filed by a group of lawyers who tried to represent the death row inmate at a competency hearing in Charlottesville last week. He refused their help.
A motion filed by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office said the request was in “direct defiance” of Gleason’s instructions. He has not requested clemency and has repeated that he wants the execution to be carried out, according to the attorney general.
Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, a citizens’ group, is opposed to the execution. Steve Northrop, a spokesman for the organization, said the group will hold vigils across the state Wednesday to protest the execution and to remember Gleason’s victims.
“There’s a significant irony in Mr. Gleason’s case in that if Virginia didn’t have the death penalty, then presumably he wouldn’t have killed those two prisoners he said he killed to get the death penalty,” Northrop said. “If we didn’t have the death penalty, he wouldn’t have done that.”
He continued: “He’s using Virginia to commit suicide, basically.”
Gleason, 42, pleaded guilty to the 2007 murder of Michael Kent Jamerson in Amherst County. While serving a sentence of life without parole at Wallens Ridge State Prison, he strangled his cellmate, Harvey Watson. He strangled another inmate, Aaron Cooper, after being moved to Red Onion State Prison, a higher security facility.
In 2010, he pleaded guilty to capital murder and received two death sentences.
Since the federal ban on capital punishment ended in 1976, Virginia has executed more people than any state except Texas. But the number of executions has waned in recent years. In 2012, nobody was sentenced to death or executed by the state of Virginia, according to a report published by the Death Penalty Information Center.
If the execution is carried out, Gleason will be the fifth person put to death by the commonwealth since Gov. Bob McDonnell took office in 20l0. The governor said in a statement last week he would not grant Gleason clemency.
“Gleason has expressed no remorse for these horrific murders. He has not sought to appeal his convictions and has not filed a petition for clemency,” McDonnell said in the statement. “He has consistently rejected any offers of legal assistance. Gleason has said that he wants the January 16th execution to ‘go as is.’ He has been found competent by the appropriate courts to make all of these decisions.”
Death row inmates in Virginia can choose death by lethal injection or electric chair; Gleason has chosen the latter. His execution is scheduled to take place at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va.