Ricky Ray Rector
Ricky Ray Rector (January 12, 1950 – January 24, 1992) was executed for the 1981 murder of police officer Robert Martin in Conway, Arkansas, USA.
After killing a man in a nightclub he at first agreed to turn himself in to authorities, but then instead shot in the back the police officer who had negotiated his surrender. He then shot himself in the head in a suicide attempt. The attempt effectively resulted in a lobotomy.
Murders and trial
On March 21, 1981, Rector and some friends drove to a dance hall at Tommy’s Old-Fashioned Home-Style Restaurant in Conway. When one friend who could not pay the three-dollar cover charge was refused entry, Rector became incensed and pulled a .38 caliber pistol from his waist band. He fired several shots, wounding two and killing a third man named Arthur Criswell, who died almost instantly after being struck in the throat and forehead.
Rector left the scene of the murder in a friend’s car and wandered the city for three days, staying in the woods or with relatives. On March 24, Rector’s sister convinced him to turn himself in. Rector agreed to surrender, but only to Officer Robert Martin, whom he had known since he was a child.
Officer Martin arrived at Rector’s mother’s home shortly after 3 p.m. and chatted with Rector’s mother and sister. Shortly thereafter, Rector arrived and greeted Officer Martin. As Officer Martin turned away to continue his conversation with Mrs. Rector, Ricky Ray Rector drew his pistol from behind his back and fired two shots into Officer Martin, striking him in the jaw and neck. Rector then turned and walked out of the house.
Once he had walked past his mother’s backyard, Rector put his gun to his own temple and fired. Rector was quickly discovered by other police officers and taken to the local hospital. The shot had destroyed Rector’s frontal lobe.
Rector survived the surgery and was put on trial for the murders of Criswell and Martin. His defense attorneys argued that Rector was intellectually impaired and not competent to stand trial. However, after hearing conflicting testimony from several experts who had evaluated Rector, Judge George F. Hartje ruled that Rector was competent to stand trial. Rector was convicted on both counts and sentenced to death.
Rector was subject to a unique overlap of controversies in 1992 during his execution in Arkansas. An oft-cited example of his mental insufficiency is his decision to save the dessert from his last meal for after his execution. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of people with mental retardation in Atkins v. Virginia, ruling that the practice constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; however, it is not clear that this would have applied to Rector because his brain damage was caused by his suicide attempt after having committed the two murders for which he was executed.
For his last meal, he left the pecan pie on the side of the tray, telling the guards who came to take him to the execution chamber that he was saving it "for later". The rest of the pecan pie was not disposed of until Rector had been executed.
Rector was executed by lethal injection. It took medical staff, with Rector’s help, more than fifty minutes to find a suitable vein. The curtain remained closed between Rector and the witnesses, but some reported they could hear Rector moaning. The administrator of the State Department of Corrections Medical Program said “the moans did come as a team of two medical people - that had grown to five - worked on both sides of his body to find a vein. That may have contributed to his occasional outbursts.” The state later attributed the difficulty in finding a suitable vein to Rector’s heavy weight and to his use of an antipsychotic medication.
Role in 1992 presidential campaign
By 1992, Bill Clinton was insisting that Democrats "should no longer feel guilty about protecting the innocent" and voiced strong support of capital punishment. To make his point, he flew home to Arkansas mid-campaign to affirm that the execution would continue as scheduled. Some pundits considered it a turning point in that race, hardening a soft public image. Others tend to cite the execution as an example of what they perceive to be Clinton's opportunism, directly influenced by Michael Dukakis and his response to CNN's Bernard Shaw when asked during a campaign debate on October 13, 1988, if he would support the death penalty if Dukakis' wife Kitty were raped and murdered. Dukakis responded that he would not.
Bill Clinton's critics from the anti-capital punishment sector have seen the case of Rector as an unpleasant example of what they view as Clinton's cynical careerism. The writer Christopher Hitchens, in particular, devotes much of a chapter of his book on Clinton, No One Left to Lie To, for what he regards as the immorality of the then Democratic candidate's decision to condone, and take political advantage of, Rector's execution. Hitchens argues that among other actions, Clinton was attempting to avoid focus on the ongoing Gennifer Flowers sex scandal.
- Ricky Ray Rector, Appellant, v. Steve Clark, Attorney General, State of Arkansas; And, A.l.lockhart, Director of Arkansas Department Of correction, Appellees, 923 F.2d 570 Justia (United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit Jan. 2, 1991).
- RECTOR v. BRYANT 501 U.S. 1239 115 L.Ed.2d 1038, U.S. Supreme Court, 24 June 1991. Retrieved 9 December 2013.)
- Bright, Stephen B. "Capital Punishment: Race, Poverty & Disadvantage". Yale Campus Press. Yale Law School. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- Ricky Ray RECTOR, Appellant, v. STATE of Arkansas, Appellee., 277 Ark. 17, 638 S.W.2d 672 (1982) (Supreme Court of Arkansas. September 13, 1982).
- Ricky Ray RECTOR, Appellant, v. STATE of Arkansas, Appellee., 280 Ark. 385 659 S.W.2d 168 (1983) (Supreme Court of Arkansas. Oct 17, 1983).
- RICKY RAY RECTOR, PETITIONER v. A.L. "ART" LOCKHART, Director Arkansas Department of Corrections and STEVE CLARK, Attorney General of the State of Arkansas, RESPONDENTS, 727 F.Supp. 1285 (1990) (UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS, PINE BLUFF DIVISION January 3, 1990).
- Frady, Marshall (22 February 1993). "Death in Arkansas". The New Yorker.
- Hitchens, Christopher (2000). No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton. Verso Books.
- Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972)