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Alabama Executes Oldest Prisoner In Modern Times

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, was killed by lethal injection on Thursday. In the late '80s, he killed a judge and a civil rights lawyer with pipe bombs.

By Gina Tron

An Alabama inmate became the oldest prisoner to be executed in modern times on Thursday.

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, was convicted of the mail-bomb murder of a federal judge and a civil rights attorney in 1989, according to the Associated Press. On Thursday he was killed by lethal injection at a prison in Atmore, Alabama. He had no last words.

“Tonight, Mr. Moody’s appeals finally came to a rightful end. Justice has been served,” a press release issued on Thursday by the Alabama Attorney General stated.

Moody was convicted of being the mastermind behind a package pipe bomb which exploded at Federal Appeals Judge Robert S. Vance’s home on Dec. 16, 1989. Vance was killed and his wife Helen was seriously injured, according to Alabama.com. The explosion happened at their kitchen table in Mountain Brook, Alabama, the Associated Press reported. Two days later, civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson was killed by a similar pipe-bomb in Atlanta. Two other devices were detonated by police: one pipe bomb sent to the 11th Circuit’s offices in Atlanta, and another to the Florida office of the N.A.A.C.P.

In 1996, Moody was convicted of killing Vance. It’s unclear when he was convicted of killing Robinson.  Prosecutors said Moody, an ex-law school student, was angry at the legal system for refusing to overturn a 1972 pipe-bomb possession conviction. That conviction made it impossible for Moody to become a lawyer, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors said that was the motive behind killing the judge; then he targeted Robinson, a black civil rights lawyer and the  N.A.A.C.P., to make it look like the Ku Klux Klan was behind the attacks.  

Moody has always maintained that he is innocent, and he has even blamed a government conspiracy for the attacks, according to the Associated Press.

Judge Vance’s son, Robert S. Vance Jr., said on Thursday that he has never forgiven Moody because “he has not acknowledged any remorse or any acknowledgment that he was guilty,” according to the Associated Press, adding that Moody fit the profile of a psychopath.

[Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections]

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