ATMORE, Ala. - A man convicted of killing his former boss at a travelling carnival nearly two decades ago was executed Thursday night after dropping his appeals and asking to be put to death.
Michael Wayne Eggers, 50, died at 7:29 p.m. CDT after receiving a lethal injection at a southwest Alabama prison.
He declined to give any last words, replying "No ma'am," when the warden asked. He gave a thumbs-up signal to friends and family as the lethal injection began. The victim's family did not witness the execution.
Eggers was sentenced to death for the 2000 strangulation of his former employer, Bennie Francis Murray. Prosecutors said Eggers admitted to strangling Murray, who had hired him to work at her concessions business for a travelling carnival, when they got into an argument when she was driving him to his car. Her body was found in Walker County, northwest of Birmingham.
Following disagreements with his attorneys, Eggers dropped his appeals in 2016 and asked Alabama to quickly schedule his execution. In a handwritten filing, he asked judges to allow his "immediate execution in the interests of truth, law and justice."
His former attorneys unsuccessfully asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. They argued that Eggers suffered from schizophrenia and delusions and was mentally incompetent when he made the decision. They wrote that Eggers believed he was the subject of a government conspiracy and "would rather die than be represented by lawyers who do not support his delusional view of his case."
The Supreme Court ruled at 5:30 p.m. that the execution could proceed. It began about 80 minutes later.
Eggers raised his left arm after a corrections officer pinched his arm to check if he was unconscious. He did not respond to a second consciousness check about five minutes later. His breathing, which had been rapid and heavy at the start of the procedure, slowed to where it was no longer perceptible.
He was pronounced dead about 35 minutes after the death warrant was read.
Eggers opposed efforts by his former attorneys to stop the execution. The petition to the Supreme Court was made without his consent. A prison spokeswoman said Eggers requested that no attorneys be allowed to visit him, or witness the lethal injection. Eggers met with friends and family Thursday ahead of his lethal injection, but not attorneys.
The state attorney general's office had asked the Supreme Court to let the execution proceed.
The state argued that Eggers made a rational decision to drop his appeals. Lawyers for the state noted that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 upheld a district court's ruling that he was competent.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that "justice has finally been served tonight for the Murray family."
"Michael Eggers showed no mercy towards his victim, his former employer, Bennie Francis Murray, who donated much of her personal time to helping him find a new job. On the night of her murder, Mrs. Murray gave Eggers a lift to pick up his car. Instead of showing her gratitude, Eggers rewarded her kindness by brutally beating and strangling her," Marshall said.
His former attorney said that Eggers was mentally ill and used the death chamber to commit suicide.
"Tonight the state of Alabama assisted a severely mentally ill man in committing suicide. Michael Eggers was as mentally ill tonight as he was the previous eight times he asked to be executed over the last 15 years. Tonight, let's pray for Mrs. Murray and her family, Mr Eggers and his family, and pray that in death, Michael finds the peace he did not have when he was alive," attorney John Palombi wrote in an email.
This was Alabama's first execution of the year.
The state halted the lethal injection of Doyle Lee Hamm last month when the execution team had trouble off getting the intravenous line connected. Hamm's lawyer says he had damaged veins because of lymphoma, hepatitis and past drug use. A doctor hired by Hamm's legal team wrote in a report included with the court filing that Hamm had at least 11 puncture sites and bled heavily from his groin during the attempts to connect the line.