If Gov. Mike Easley denies clemency Thursday to Central Prison death row inmate Earl Richmond Jr., it will mark the state’s 20th execution to be carried out under the former state prosecutor. A Cumberland County jury sentenced Richmond to die for the 1991 killings of 27-year-old Helisa Stewart Hayes and her two children, Phillip, 8, and Darien, 7. His execution is scheduled Friday at 2 a.m.

On 20 previous occasions, Easley has denied clemency for death row inmates; 19 were subsequently executed. One other received a stay of execution from the courts. Easley allowed 18 executions to go forward during his first term as governor, granting clemency twice.

On March 11, William Dillard Powell, 58, was executed by injection, the 19th carried out under Easley, and the first of his second term.

Last week, Richmond’s lawyers met with Easley to present clemency arguments. Easley also met separately with a group of law enforcement representatives and prosecutors who are in support of Richmond’s execution.

At his trial, Richmond’s attorney said his client was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine when he flew into a rage when Hayes hit him during an argument.

Anti-death penalty activists plan to gather at the Capitol on Thursday at noon to hold a vigil to oppose Richmond’s execution.