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Alabama executes man advocates said was mentally ill

By Verna Gates

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Alabama executed a convicted murderer on Thursday who prisoners' rights groups said was mentally ill.

Andrew Reid Lackey, 29, was put to death by lethal injection at Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama, prison officials said. It was the state's first execution since 2011.

Lackey was convicted of killing Charlie Newman, an 80-year-old World War Two veteran in Athens, Alabama.

Lackey made no statement before his execution, according to prison officials. He was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m. CDT (2325 GMT).

Newman's grandson had told Lackey that his grandfather had a vault filled with gold bars, according to court documents.

On a 911 recording from Newman's home, the veteran's last words were, "Come sit down and let me pray for you." He was trying to calm Lackey, who was a close friend of his grandson, according to court records.

On the recording, Lackey could be heard asking for the location of the vault.

The Equal Justice Initiative, a Montgomery-based prisoners' rights group, argued that Lackey was mentally ill and had attempted suicide. He "lives in Andrew land," and takes multiple psychotropic drugs, the group said in a statement before the execution.

Even though he had not exhausted his legal appeals, according to court records, Lackey wrote to the Alabama Supreme Court last year requesting that his death sentence be carried out.

The prisoners' rights group went to court to stop the execution. It argued that the judge should have properly evaluated Lackey's mental competency before permitting him to waive his appeals, but an appeals court allowed the judge's ruling to stand.

Bryan Stevenson, the Equal Justice Initiative's director, said on Thursday that a family member had intervened on Lackey's behalf to expedite the execution.

(Editing By Brendan O'Brien)

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