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Leavitt's execution described as silent, sterile, respectful

Leavitt's execution described as silent, sterile, respectful

BOISE -- The State of Idaho executed 53-year-old Richard Leavitt on Tuesday for his role in the brutal stabbing and mutilation of an Idaho woman in 1984.

Prison officials declared Leavitt dead at 10:25 a.m.

He was executed by lethal injection inside the F block of the Idaho Maximum Security Institition. The event marked Idaho's second execution in 17 years.

Leavitt was convicted of stabbing to death, then mutilating the body of 31-year-old Danette Elg, of Blackfoot, in 1984.

His execution saw two notable changes in state policy.

The first came as media witnesses were allowed to view the execution process from the moment Leavitt entered the death chamber until the moment he was pronounced dead.

Idaho changed its policy of barring witnesses from watching the first half of executions after The Associated Press and 16 other news organizations sued for access. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the policy violated the First Amendment last week.

The second change came when Leavitt died of a single injection of Sodium Pentobarbital. In previous lethal injections, state prison officials administered a chemical mixture of up to three different drugs.

53-year-old Richard A. Leavitt

Leavitt's mood, activity, before execution

Idaho Dept. of Corrections Director Brent Reinke described Leavitt's mood prior to his execution as resolved, and said the convicted murderer had been meeting with family members and his attorney throughout Monday night and into Tuesday morning. Reinke said Leavitt did not meet with a spiritual adviser.

Reinke also explained that Leavitt had been offered, and had subsequently taken, several sedatives in preparation for his 10 a.m. execution.

A total of four media witnesses were selected to view Leavitt's execution, as well as several family members of Dannette Elg, along with witnesses to the State of Idaho.

Witnesses describe Leavitt's death

Associated Press Reporter Rebecca Boon said media witnesses were escorted into the death chamber at 9:42 a.m. Boon says Leavitt was then wheeled into the execution chamber on a gurney and a backboard, then transferred to the execution table at approximately 10 a.m.

According to media witnesses, Leavitt did not respond when asked if he wished to make a final statement.

Boon says a medical team wearing balaclava style surgical masks and goggles inserted several itranvenous tubes into Leavitt's body to administer the lethal injection. Within minutes of the I.V.s being placed, his breathing quickly slowed and stopped, Boon said.

Prison officials, along with Ada County Coroner Erwin L. Sonnenberg, pronounced Leavitt dead at 10:25 a.m. Witnesses described the situation as silent, sterile, and respectful.

The room was dead silent -- no one spoke, said Reporter Ruth Brown from the Twin Falls Post Register.

It was the kind of silence that drowns out the noises you usually hear, echoed Idaho Press Tribune Reporter John Funk, who also commented on the professionalism of the execution team.

KBOI News reporter Scott Logan offered a similar sentiment, saying I was struck with the military precision with which the execution team brought him into the chamber. Logan later added, I was also struck by the antiseptic smell. It was very clean, very sterile.

The state of Idaho's execution table, inside the death chamber

Reaction from authorities, family

Former Bingham County Prosecutor Tom Moss did not witness Leavitt's execution. However, as the prosecuting attorney who handled Leavitt's case in 1984, Moss offered his comments on what he described as the lengthy nature of Leavitt's death penalty appeals process.

The bottom line is that it takes a long time, but when someone's life is at stake, it's very important that we move carefully, Moss said, adding that Leavitt's case was examined through a microscope, at every level.

Moss also said the Danette Elg's sister hugged him after the execution was over, saying I feel real good.

Prison officials told KTVB that members of Leavitt's family were present, but did not watch his execution on Tuesday, because he had asked them not to.

Officials say Leavitt s body will now be cremated, and the remains will be turned over to his family.