Alabama executes 83-year-old man who killed judge with pipe bomb

April 20 (UPI) — An 83-year-old man was executed by lethal injection in Alabama on Thursday, becoming the oldest person to receive capital punishment in modern U.S. history.

Walter Leroy Moody killed federal appeals judge Robert S. Vance and seriously injured Vance’s wife, Helen, with a homemade pipe bomb in Birmingham, Ala. in 1989. Days later, Moody killed Atlanta civil right attorney Robert E. Robinson with a similar bomb.

Moody was convicted of murder in Robinson’s death in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison by a Georgia court. For killing Vance, an Alabama court sentenced Moody to death in 1996.

“Moody has spent the better part of three decades trying to avoid justice. Tonight, Mr. Moody’s appeals finally came to a rightful end. Justice has been served,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she allowed the execution to proceed “in accordance with the laws of this state and in the interest of ensuring justice for the victim and his family.”

“For our system of government to work properly, the judiciary must be able to operate without undue outside influence,” Ivey said. “By targeting and murdering a respected jurist, Mr. Moody not only committed capital murder, he also sought to interrupt the flow of justice.”

Moody never admitted to the deaths, but prosecutors believe his motive for Vance started when he was convicted of possessing a pipe bomb in 1972 and served three years in federal prison. After his release, Moody attended law school and sought to have his conviction overturned so he could practice law. A federal appeals court turned down his petition and Vance was one of the judges on the federal district court in Alabama at that time.

Moody maintained his innocence to the end.

In January, just before losing his last appeal, Moody wrote a letter to Vance’s son, Robert S. Vance, Jr.

“Had my dad been murdered, I would want to know who had done it,” Moody wrote.

But after attending the federal and state trials, Vance told, “I came away without a doubt that they got the right guy.”