'Volunteer' Gets Death Wish

Wilford Lee Berry Jr. was executed by lethal injection Friday night at the Southern Ohio Correctional facility in Lucasville, Ohio.

Berry, 36, received a lethal injection in both arms shortly after 9 p.m. EST while strapped on his back in the prison's death chamber.

When the official witnesses were brought in at 9:24, he appeared calm. His lips moved but he said nothing audible. Five minutes later his breathing noticeably slowed and his face grew pale.

He was pronounced dead at 9:31 p.m.

Earlier Friday, the full U.S. Supreme Court without dissent denied a request by the state public defender's office for an emergency review of the case. Berry was turned down for clemency Thursday by Gov. Robert Taft.

It was Ohio's first use of the death penalty since 1963.

Berry, dubbed "the Volunteer" because he wished to die rather than spend life in prison, refused to participate in the appeals process.

He was convicted of murdering Cleveland baker Charles Mitroff Jr. during a 1989 robbery of Mitroff's shop, where Berry had been hired as a handyman days earlier.

Berry designated three witnesses for his execution: his mother Jennie Franklin, sister Elaine Quigley, and Cynthia Yost, an assistant state public defender.

Mitroff's family, still struggling with the pain of his shooting, designated as its witnesses three men who helped apprehend Berry: William Florio, a suburban Cleveland private investigator; and two northern Kentucky police officers, Stan Voorhees and Duane Rolfsen.

Richard Bowler, Mitroff's brother-in-law, said "Frankly, I think he deserves it. But it's hard for normal people to accept that."

Several dozen protestors opposed to capital punishment conducted a silent vigil outside the prison walls. They were joined by a group of about 20 death penalty supporters.

Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery said "There are no winners here tonight. Rather, the system of justice has implemented its solemn responsibility."

Berry wore a white smock with navy blue prison pants and navy blue slip-on sneakers.

Lucasville Warden Stephen Huffman stood at Berry's head with his hands folded. A leader of the prison's execution team stood at Berry's feet.

Huffman pulled a curtain blocking witnesses' view of Berry at 9:30 p.m. At 9:31, Huffman opened the curtain and said a prison physician had pronounced Berry dead.

State prisons spokesman Joe Andrews said Berry had chosen not to make a last statement or meet with a chaplain. Andrews described Berry on his final day as "stoic and on an even keel."