As a friend and spiritual advisor, the Rev. Myles H. Walburn of Chapel Hill agreed to witness the execution of Patrick Moody at 2 a.m. on St. Patrick’s Day.
Walburn, who had visited Moody for almost two years on Central Prison’s death row, said words could not describe the pain he felt as he watched as Moody, 39, received a lethal injection for the 1994 murder of Donnie Robbins in Thomasville.
Walburn said Moody’s execution was the culmination of a life of misery for a man who faced terrible child abuse and received little love.
“It just seems to me in listening to his story that he was failed at every point in his life,” Walburn said Monday. Moody’s parents “abused him horribly,” Walburn said. The state of Ohio, where Moody grew up, offered no child protection. Moody was also failed by the school system, the church, and finally by a justice system that inadequately represented him at his murder trial.
“Here’s a guy that had all kinds of reasons to be resentful and bitter and yet there was none of that in him, none of it,” said Walburn, who visited Moody three different times last Thursday.
Even as his parents and many relatives–none of whom had visited Moody during his more than 10 years on death row–came to the prison from Ohio to visit in the final days before his execution, Moody remained gracious, Walburn said.
“It was very difficult for him, but there was no resentment there,” Walburn said. “It was all gone. He died with a great deal of grace and dignity. As far as I’m concerned, he was the good guy, and the prison was the bad guy.
“I’m happy to have met Patrick, and I’m honored to have been his friend.”
Moody was the 41st person executed in Central Prison since executions resumed in 1984 and the 25th since Gov. Mike Easley took office in 2001.
As prison officials prepared to execute Moody late Thursday night, a group of 15 death penalty opponents, many donning sackcloth and ashes, went to the driveway in front of the prison and came face-to-face with a line of police and prison guards who quickly handcuffed them and took them to the Wake County jail. The 15, seven of whom have been arrested at the last three executions, were charged with trespass and given April 20 court dates.
Duke Divinity student George Linney found an unusual way to protest Moody’s execution. A father of two preschoolers and a marathon runner, Linney laced up his running shoes just before midnight and started running 2.5-mile loops around the huge prison. By the time Moody was pronounced dead at 2:19 a.m., Linney was completing his eighth loop for a total of 20 miles.
“God has been calling at my heart to do this for a while, and I’ve been kind of fighting it and fighting it,” Linney said as he finished his run. “More and more things were happening that finally got me here … I had to quit standing on the sideline and participate in my own unique way.”
During a stop to pray in front of the prison, Linney read a prayer aloud: “I am trying to take actual strides toward abolishing the death penalty. When I run, my mind can be still, and I can pray…. Running is the most peaceful thing I can think to do…. I run tonight because I have been taught that Christians do not kill other people. And I run around this prison because I lament my own complicitness in this killing.”
Moody’s mother, Janneth Rondelle Moody, who had visited with her son just hours before he died, sat in her wheelchair in the prison visiting center speaking softly and crying.
Janneth Moody said her son told her: “Mom, I know I’ve got to be punished, but the least thing is let me live, because if they kill me they murdered me, too.”
While many grieved Moody’s execution, Peggy Robbins Smith, sister of victim Donnie Robbins, watched Moody die with gratitude.
“Tonight, I want to thank the victims’ organizations, the district attorney and his staff as well as the police and detectives, thanks a bunch,” Smith wrote in a prepared statement. “I now know that my brother can rest in peace, and now there is a closure to the loss of my brother, Donnie Robbins. I will always have my memories, and no one can take them away from me. I loved him and always will.”
As Patrick Moody lay on the gurney, minutes from death, he had an exchange with his half-brother, Rick Moody.
Rick mouthed the words, “I’ll see you in heaven.” Patrick responded, “I’ll see you up there.”
For his final statement, Moody released a reflection by Catholic nun and renowned progressive author and activist Sister Joan D. Chittister.
“Despair says that there is no place to go but here,” Chittister wrote. “Hope says that God is waiting for us someplace else. Begin again.”