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Convicted Killer's Execution is 1,000th in US Since 1976

A man convicted of murdering his estranged wife and her father in 1988 was put to death by lethal injection Friday. It was the 1,000th execution in the United States since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

Kenneth Lee Boyd, 57, was put to death at the Central Prison in Raleigh, North Carolina. The spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Correction spoke to the media after the execution.

WALKER: "Kenneth Boyd was executed by lethal injection this morning, in accordance with North Carolina law. Boyd entered the execution chamber at 1:50 a.m. Warden Marvin Polk pronounced Boyd dead at 2:15 a.m."

Boyd's execution occurred at a time when there is increasing debate about the death penalty in the United States. Fewer juries are sentencing criminals to death, and public opinion polls show support for the death penalty has declined during the past decade. However, almost two-thirds of Americans still approve of it.

In North Carolina, Boyd's execution came after the state's governor and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene. Associated Press reporter Estes Thompson, a member of the news media allowed to witness the execution, said Boyd made a brief, two-sentence statement before he was put to death.

"Boyd issued a last statement that asked his daughter-in-law to look after his son, Kenneth, from a first marriage, and their children. He also said he thanked everyone who had supported him," said Mr. Thompson.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the prison to protest the execution, and more than a dozen of them were arrested, as they attempted to cross a police line.

Executions stopped in the United States in 1972, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was unconstitutional. But after several states amended their laws, the court again permitted the punishment.

Boyd's execution was the 1,000th since the court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. His attorney, Thomas Maher, said Boyd wanted to be remembered as a human being, not a number.

"This one-thousandth execution is a milestone. It's a milestone we should all be ashamed of," said Mr. Maher. "Hopefully, one day, we will learn that meeting violence with violence is not the answer."

Of the 38 states that have the death penalty, Texas has executed the most inmates, 355 since 1976. More than 3,500 men and women are on death row in U.S. prisons awaiting execution.