He Cursed The Witnesses To His Death Murderer James Red Dog Is Executed In Delaware

Posted: March 04, 1993

SMYRNA, Del. — James Allen Red Dog swore at his supposed oppressors and died with one eye open.

Attended by his wife, his attorney and an American Indian spiritualist, the 39-year-old multiple killer was strapped to Delaware's lethal-injection table about 10 a.m. yesterday. In final words, he thanked his supporters, and then, in a last act of defiance, cursed the rest of a roomful of execution witnesses.

He gasped heavily two times as deadly doses of medication ran into a vein in his right arm. Then he closed his eyes behind thick glasses. But, according to witnesses, Red Dog's left eye opened again, and stayed open as the color left his face.

"I think justice was done," Delaware Attorney General Charles M. Oberly 3d said afterward. "It was a sad ending to a very tragic lifestyle."

Red Dog, whose troubled and violent life began on the sparsely populated Fort Peck reservation in Poplar, Mont., was pronounced dead at 10:28 a.m. He was the second murderer executed in Delaware in just under a year. As in the earlier execution - that of serial killer Steven Pennell last March - Red Dog had vigorously pursued his own death and refused all appeals.

Until Pennell, there had not been an execution in Delaware since 1946, nor in the three-state region since 1963.

Red Dog was sentenced last April for slicing the throat of a 30-year-old Wilmington motel night auditor, Hugh Pennington, in February 1991. During the same overnight crime spree, Red Dog abducted and repeatedly raped a Wilmington woman. He eventually pleaded no contest to charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and four counts of rape.

He had been linked to five killings in four states and had spent most of his adult life in jail.

In pressing for the execution, Red Dog wrote in court papers last year, "I want to expedite this for the families" - both his and his murder victim's.

Decrying what he said was a "festive" atmosphere for the Pennell execution, Red Dog wrote to the Wilmington News Journal last March that his hope was "that my execution will be conducted with more solemnity than a circus act!"

Like Pennell's execution, Red Dog's took place in the windowless brown trailer placed for that purpose on a remote corner of the Delaware Correctional Center. Prison windows facing the trailer were boarded over to prevent inmates from observing the proceedings.

Officials said Red Dog, dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit and white socks, walked from a holding cell inside the trailer to the stark white execution room. State Corrections Commissioner Robert J. Watson said Red Dog ''cooperated fully with the staff" as he was secured under heavy leather straps.

The spiritualist, John Morsette, also of Poplar, Mont., conducted Indian rites over Red Dog for about two minutes and placed a necklace over the condemned man's head, Watson said. Red Dog was of mixed Sioux and Assiniboine heritage.

When a pool of seven reporters was ushered into the adjoining witness room to observe the execution through two large windows, Red Dog's wife, Bonnie, stood near the glass watching her husband. She was flanked by Morsette and defense attorney Edward C. Pankowski Jr.

About 15 other witnesses were also in the room, including Red Dog's prosecutors and government officials.

Speaking through an intercom, James and Bonnie Red Dog conversed briefly in what the reporters said sounded like an Indian language.

Then, asked by prison warden Robert Snyder if he had anything to say, James Red Dog said, "I'd like to thank my family and friends and Mr. Pankowski for supporting me, and all the others who treated me with kindness. And for the rest of you, y'all can kiss my ass."

On a hand signal from Snyder, the lethal injection was started by hidden technicians in another room, the reporters said.

"I'm going home, Babe," Red Dog said to his wife.

"I know, I know. I love you, and I'll be there soon," said Bonnie Red Dog. She put her right fist over her chest, then drew a circle in the air with her index finger, according to the journalists.

The man on the table gasped twice and bit his lip, they said. Morsette bowed his head. About four minutes after the injection began, a curtain was drawn across the windows, and Snyder announced that Red Dog was dead.

At the prison fence was a small band of Indian supporters, along with groups both for and against the death penalty.

"It's time," an approving Saxton Lambertson, 65, of Dover, said of the execution. "We're in support of getting rid of the criminals." Lambertson said his elderly parents were murdered by another man on Delaware's death row.

About 20 death penalty opponents also held placards, prayed and repeatedly gave interviews to news reporters who outnumbered them.

Pankowski said the body would be taken by train to Montana for an Indian burial.

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