Mark Hopkinson died early Wednesday in Wyoming's first execution in 26 years, yet those who committed the murder for which he died have yet to be brought to justice.
Hopkinson, a former Utah resident, maintained to his death that he did not order the tortuous slaying of Jeffrey Lynn Green, 23, who died two days before he was to testify about Hopkinson's role in a 1977 bombing that killed three."They have killed an innocent man," he said to Warden Duane Shillinger while strapped to a gurney awaiting
the lethal injection.
"You let the whole damn world and all those news-people know that Mark Hopkinson was strong and tight to the last," he said. "Help me do this, war-den."
Once injected, the drugs took effect quickly.
"Well, warden, I feel it in my system. I'll see. . . . "
Hopkinson then exhaled slightly and closed his eyes. There were no further signs of life. It was 12:57 a.m.
When Hopkinson was tried in 1979 for the four murders, authorities said they were closing in on Green's killers.However, to this date no one has been brought to justice for the actual crime.
Death penalty protesters stood on the stark, windswept plains outside the Wyoming State Penitentiary here, bundled against a wind chill of 13 below zero, as Hopkinson succumbed.
Gov. Mike Sullivan, who could have commuted Hopkinson's death sentence, expressed sorrow over the execution.
"What a nightmare, what a waste, what a waste of humanity," said Rick Hays of Amnesty International. "Capital punishment is never, never right. In this case, it's an absolute obscenity."
The execution was Wyoming's first since Dec. 10, 1965, when Andrew Pixley died in the gas chamber after confessing to the rape-slaying of a 12-year-old suburban Chicago girl.
Hopkinson, 42, was convicted in 1979 of ordering the bombing deaths of Evanston attorney Vincent Vehar, his wife and a son, and for arranging Green's death while imprisoned in California on a bomb conspiracy conviction. Vehar was representing the Fort Bridger sewer board and had disputed with Hopkinson over the cost of extending sewer lines to Hopkinson's trailer park.
While Hopkinson received three life sentences for the Vehar deaths, it was Green's murder that drew the death sentence in 1982.
Hopkinson moved to Salt Lake City in 1978, met Alvin "Hap" Russell and shared a house with him until Hopkinson was arrested.
Russell was convicted in June 1990 of conspiring with Hopkinson to slay Green. Witnesses testified Hopkinson called Russell's house from prison 47 times and offered to pay him $20,000 to help him get Green.
Russell, 39, lives in Salt Lake City and is appealing his conviction. He contended Hopkinson also was innocent.
Along with hoping to escape the executioner, Hopkinson was driven during his 12 years in prison to get back at Jackson attorney Gerry Spence, a friend of the Vehar family, who prosecuted Hopkinson and won the guilty verdicts.
Meanwhile in Huntsville, Texas, an inmate convicted of leading three teenagers in the abduction and slaying of a stranded Houston motorist was executed by injection early Wednesday.
Joe Angel Cordova, 39, shook his head to indicate he had no last words moments before his lethal injection. Once the procedure began, Cordova gasped for air three times and was declared dead at 12:18 a.m.