The brother of a German citizen executed a week ago has been poisoned by cyanide gas in Arizona's death chamber, despite protests that reached the highest tribunals in Europe and the United States.
Strapped in a black padded chair in the gas chamber, Walter LaGrand quietly wept late Wednesday as he apologized to the family of a bank manager he and his brother fatally had stabbed during a botched 1982 robbery.
LaGrand strained to locate Kathy Hartsock, whose father, Kenneth Hartsock, was stabbed two dozen times by the brothers at a bank in Marana, near Tucson.
"To all my loved ones, I hope they find peace,'' he said. "To all of you here today, I forgive you and I hope I can be forgiven in my next life.''
LaGrand died 18 minutes after executioners dropped cyanide pellets into a vat of distilled water and sulfuric acid, enveloping him in a cloud of white, steam-like fumes.
Both LaGrand, 37, and his brother, Karl, 35, chose the gas chamber in the hope that courts would rule the method a form of unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. In both cases, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted a federal appeals court's restraining order barring Arizona from the executions.
Karl LaGrand accepted the state's last-minute offer of lethal injection.
Walter LaGrand rejected such an offer. He said he would prefer the more protracted and painful execution in the gas chamber to protest the death penalty.
The brothers were born in Augsburg, Germany. They moved to southern Arizona as children after their mother married an American serviceman.
Germany, which has no death penalty, asked the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands to intervene Wednesday after Arizona Gov. Jane Hull rejected appeals from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to stop the execution.
The world court has no enforcement powers. In a special hearing, however, Judge Christopher Weeramantry of Sri Lanka urged the U.S. government to prevent the execution. The brothers are the first German citizens executed in the United States since World War II.
Of the 38 states with capital punishment, only Arizona, California, Maryland, Missouri and Wyoming offer the gas chamber as an optional method, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Arizona hadn't used the gas chamber since 1992, when inmate Donald Eugene Harding's death took 11 minutes and was considered so gruesome that Arizonans voted to require prisoners condemned after November 1992 to be executed by injection.
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