FLORENCE — An Arizona death-row inmate used his last words Wednesday to say he regretted nothing before he was given a lethal injection in what was the state’s third execution this year.
Thomas Arnold Kemp, 63, was executed at the state prison in Florence for killing a Tucson college student after robbing him of $200 in July 1992. The one-drug execution took seven minutes, and Kemp’s time of death was 10:08 a.m.
His death puts Arizona on pace to match its busiest year for executions and to make it one of the nation’s busiest death-penalty states.
As Kemp lay strapped to a table in the death chamber, he was asked if he had any final words. He responded that he did, then said simply: “I regret nothing.”
He nodded and smiled at his attorney, then looked at the ceiling and calmly waited. As the execution began, Kemp’s eyes closed and his body visibly shook for several seconds before he went quiet and appeared to fall asleep with a few deep breaths.
Many death-row inmates in Arizona use their last words to apologize to their victims’ family members, and some cry. Others have used their last words to cheer on their favorite sports teams, including Robert Charles Comer, who said at his May 2007 execution: “Go Raiders.”
Kemp was sentenced to death for kidnapping Hector Soto Juarez from outside Juarez’s Tucson home on July 11, 1992, and robbing him before taking him into the desert near Marana, forcing him to undress and shooting him twice in the head.
Juarez, 25, had just left his apartment and fiancée to get food when Kemp and Jeffery Logan spotted him. They held him at gunpoint and used his debit card to withdraw $200 before driving him to the Silverbell Mine area, where Kemp killed Juarez.
The two men then went to Flagstaff, where they kidnapped a married couple traveling from California to Kansas and made them drive to Durango, Colo., where Kemp raped the man in a hotel room. Later, Kemp and Logan forced the couple to drive to Denver, where the couple escaped. Logan soon after separated from Kemp and called police about Juarez’s murder.
Logan led police to Juarez’s body, and Kemp was arrested. Logan was later sentenced to life in prison.
Kemp had argued his conviction was unfair because then-prosecutor Kenneth Peasley repeatedly told jurors that Kemp’s homosexuality was behind Juarez’s kidnapping and murder, and that the jury hadn’t been properly vetted for their feelings about gay men.
None of Juarez’s family members were at the execution, and prison officials said Kemp didn’t have any family members of his own there, either.
Kemp’s lack of regret Wednesday mirrors remarks he gave at his sentencing in 1992 when he was given the chance to argue that he should be spared from the death penalty. Instead, Kemp said he had no regrets outside of not killing Logan when he had the chance.
“I don’t show any mercy, and I am certainly not here to plead for mercy,” he said at the sentencing.
“The so-called victim was not an American citizen and, therefore, was beneath my contempt,” Kemp said and then referred to Juarez using a racial slur. “If more of them ended up dead, the rest of them would soon learn to stay in Mexico where they belong.”
In a rare move, Kemp also declined to seek mercy from Arizona’s clemency board, often an inmate’s last chance to argue why they don’t deserve to be killed.
In a letter written March 29, Kemp said such a hearing “provides public humiliation of the prisoner without any chance that the board might actually recommend a commutation.”
The letter was provided to the AP through Kemp’s Tucson attorney, Tim Gabrielsen.
“In light of the board’s history of consistently denying requests for commutations, my impression is that a hearing in my case would be nothing short of a dog and pony show,” Kemp wrote.
Kemp was the third Arizona inmate to be executed using one drug, pentobarbital. Before that, the state used a three-drug method. It made the change because its supply of one of the drugs had expired.
Kemp was allowed to choose a last meal the night before his execution. He ate a bacon cheeseburger, French fries, a slice of boysenberry pie, strawberry ice cream and a root beer.
With three lethal injections already this year, Arizona could match its record year for executions.
Arizona executed Robert Henry Moormann on Feb. 29 and Robert Charles Towery on March 8. Another inmate, Samuel Villegas Lopez, is scheduled to be executed May 16 for the brutal rape and murder of a Phoenix woman.
Three other inmates who are near the end of their appeals also could be put to death this year, putting the state on pace to execute seven men in 2012.
Arizona established its death penalty in 1910. Since then, the most inmates Arizona has executed in a given year was seven in 1999.
Texas leads the nation in executions just about every year, and last year put 13 inmates to death. So far this year, Texas has executed four men — the most of the seven states that have executed inmates in 2012.
Executions nationwide have decreased steadily since they hit an all-time high of 98 executions in 1999 and have averaged 44 a year since 2007, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
In the last five years, four states have repealed the death penalty — New Mexico, Illinois, New Jersey and New York. Governors in those states cited cases of innocent people being executed, and said the system was expensive and ineffective at deterring murder.
On Monday, a measure to abolish capital punishment in California qualified for the November ballot, allowing voters there to decide whether to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.