Alabama executes man who shot, killed store clerk

Posted Sept. 22, 2011, at 9:39 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 23, 2011, at 9:27 a.m.

ATMORE, Ala. — A man described by a police informant as trying to make a name for himself was executed Thursday evening for the 1994 shooting death of an Alabama store clerk during a robbery.

Derrick O. Mason, 37, was administered an injection and pronounced dead minutes later at 6:49 p.m. local time at Alabama’s Holman Prison. It was the third execution this week in the United States.

Strapped to the gurney, Mason gave a brief statement, apologizing to the victim’s family “for the hurt and pain I caused” them. He thanked the victim’s father for getting in touch years ago and granting him his forgiveness. Just before the chemicals began coursing through the veins in Mason’s arm, a prison chaplain held his hand and kneeled and said a prayer before stepping back.

Mason’s breathing slowed, his head tilted backward and his lips pursed several times before he became very still. Minutes later, authorities closed the curtain on the death chamber.

During the execution, the condemned man’s mother, Maggie Mason, sat in the front row with her head bowed down. “He’s resting for the first time,” she said repeatedly. Later she held the hands of some other family members present and said: “He’s gone.”

The victim’s family issued a statement afterward saying it hopes the execution stands as a deterrent for those who consider committing heinous crimes.

Mullen blames Pakistan intelligence for attack

WASHINGTON — The top U.S. military officer on Thursday accused Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency of backing extremists in planning and executing the assault on the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan last week and a truck bomb attack that wounded 77 American soldiers days earlier.

In his last congressional testimony before he retires next week, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted that the Haqqani insurgent network “acts as a veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, undermining the uneasy U.S.-Pakistan relationship forged in the terror fight and endangering American troops in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan is “exporting violence” and threatening any success in Afghanistan, Mullen said.

“In choosing to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy, the government of Pakistan, and most especially the Pakistani army and ISI, jeopardizes not only the prospect of our strategic partnership but Pakistan’s opportunity to be a respected nation with legitimate regional influence,” Mullen said. “They may believe that by using these proxies, they are hedging their bets or re dressing what they feel is an imbalance in regional power. But in reality, they have already lost that bet.”

Mullen’s harsh words marked the first time an American official had directly tied Pakistan’s intelligence agency to the attacks and signaled a significant shift in the U.S. approach to Islamabad. In the past, U.S. criticism of Pakistan largely had been relayed in private conversations with the countries’ leaders while American officials publicly offered encouraging words for Islamabad’s participation in the terror fight.

In recent days, U.S. officials have been explicit in linking the government to extremists who are attacking American forces in Afghanistan.

“With ISI support, Haqqani operatives plan and conducted that truck bomb attack, as well as the assault on our embassy,” Mullen told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He also said the United States had credible information that Haqqani extremists, with help from the Pakistani intelligence agency, were responsible for the June 28 attack on the Inter-Continental Hotel in Kabul and other small but effective assaults.

Pope warns Germans not to ignore religion

BERLIN — Pope Benedict XVI addressed Germany’s parliament in the historic Reichstag building Thursday, warning that politicians must not sacrifice ethics for power and evoking the Nazi excesses of his homeland as a lesson in history.

Amid scattered protests outside and a boycott by some lawmakers, Benedict began his first state visit to Germany in a bid to stem the tide of Catholics leaving the church while acknowledging the damage caused by the clerical sex abuse scandal.

The pope spoke for 20 minutes in the Reichstag, which was torched in 1933 in an incident used by Hitler to strengthen his grip on power.

“We Germans know from our own experience” what happens when power is corrupted, Benedict said, describing Nazis as a “highly organized band of robbers, capable of threatening the whole world and driving it to the edge of the abyss.”

But he said even under the Nazi dictatorship resistance movements stuck to their beliefs at a great risk, “thereby doing a great service to justice and to humanity as a whole.”

He also urged all Germans not to ignore religion.

“Even today, there is ultimately nothing else we could wish for but a listening heart — the capacity to discern between good and evil, and thus to establish true law, to serve justice and peace,” he said.

Benedict also voiced strong support for Germany’s ecological movement, calling it “a cry for fresh air which must not be ignored or pushed aside.”

After the speech, he met with a 15-member Jewish delegation, noting that it was in Berlin that the annihilation of European Jews was organized.

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