Originally created 01/24/02

Killer again faced with execution



ATLANTA - A two-time convicted killer whose life was spared last year just hours before he was to die in the electric chair faces death again tonight, this time by injection.

Ronald Keith Spivey, convicted of the 1976 killings of a Columbus police officer and a man who owed him $20 from a hotel pool game, is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson, 50 miles south of Atlanta.

His attorneys planned a multifaceted legal attack to stop the execution, petitioning a Butts County judge, the Georgia Supreme Court, a federal judge and the U.S. Supreme Court for his life.

The argument is similar to those made by other inmates before their executions - that the state parole board, which has the power to grant clemency, is littered with conflicts of interest.

In a case unrelated to Mr. Spivey's, a prison administrator's notes show that two of the five board members sought the transfer of a convicted killer on behalf of Sen. Van Streat, D-Nicholls, who was indicted on charges of using his own influence to have the killer transferred.

Two members of the board are being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for allegedly receiving payments from a company that does probation supervision.

"Mr. Spivey cannot get a fair clemency hearing from a parole board that's basically corrupt," attorney John Matteson said.

The Butts County court rejected the request for a stay. The other courts did not immediately rule.

In Jackson, the state readied its death chamber for the fifth execution since October, when the Georgia Supreme Court threw out the electric chair as cruel and unusual punishment.

Mr. Spivey is on death row for the murder of Columbus police Officer Bill Watson on Dec. 28, 1976. Officer Watson, working as a security guard, interrupted a robbery at a Columbus bar and was shot twice at close range.

Hours before, Mr. Spivey killed another man at a Macon hotel bar because the man refused to pay Mr. Spivey $20 he won in a pool game. Another man was wounded before Mr. Spivey fled.

On Wednesday, Mr. Spivey was remorseful, his attorney said.

"He realizes his family's suffering, and the victims' families are suffering," Mr. Matteson said.