BALTIMORE (AP) _ With his appeals exhausted and a request for clemency denied, a man convicted of the 1987 rape and murder of a newlywed was executed by injection.
Steven Oken was put to death at 9:18 p.m. Thursday, a Maryland prison spokeswoman said. Witnesses described the procedure, which lasted between seven and eight minutes, as peaceful.
Oken's lawyers had claimed the death penalty method was potentially painful and therefore unconstitutionally cruel.
Lower courts agreed to stay Oken's execution to determine whether a barbiturate used in the execution might not keep the inmate from feeling pain, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision Wednesday.
On Thursday, Oken's lawyers argued executioners might have to cut deeply into his flesh to administer the lethal drugs, but lower courts and the Supreme Court quickly rejected that appeal.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich declined to grant clemency Thursday.
Oken, 42, was executed for the rape and murder of 20-year-old Dawn Marie Garvin. He also was convicted of killing Patricia Hirt, his wife's sister, and Lori Ward, a motel clerk in Maine, during a 15-day spree.
``I want to thank God. This is finally over,'' said Garvin's mother, Betty Romano, who witnessed the execution. ``The only problem is Steven Oken died in peace. My daughter didn't have the luxury to die in peace.''
Supporters and opponents of capital punishment demonstrated outside the state prison complex in Baltimore before the execution, waving signs, holding candles and chanting.
When a death penalty supporter announced on a bullhorn, ``Mr. Oken has met his maker,'' part of the crowd cheered and threw streamers into the air.
``Justice has been served. This is justice for Pat, Dawn and Lori ... we're feeling good, we're elated,'' said Garvin's brother, Fred A. Romano, who carried a stuffed bear found tucked under her arm when her body was discovered.
``It's time to move on. Oken's not worth our time anymore,'' Romano said.
The appeal filed Thursday said Oken may require a deep cut to receive the lethal drugs. The defense lawyers did not elaborate on why the procedure might be needed, but it is generally used when problems such as a history of intravenous drug use complicate reaching a vein.
The Supreme Court had ruled last month that an Alabama inmate could pursue a similar claim, but rejected Oken's Thursday night, after rejecting another appeal in which his lawyers had alleged Oken's earlier attorneys should have done more to argue against a death sentence.
Oken could have been executed any time before midnight Friday. State law prohibits corrections officials from disclosing the exact date and time of an execution. Instead, a judge signs a death warrant that runs for a five-day period, starting with a Monday.