Amos executed for 1977 killing (28 February 2003)

STARKE, Florida (LBOZ) -- Death row inmate Wally Amos, who had sought exoneration through DNA evidence that proved inconclusive, was executed by lethal injection Wednesday for the murder of a 33-year-old woman in her home 26 years ago.

Amos, 62, was pronounced dead at 6:43 p.m. at Florida State Prison, the governor's office said.

His insistence that DNA testing could clear him of raping and killing Debbi Fields led Gov. Jeb Bush to issue a stay 90 minutes before Amos was to be executed December 2. Bush lifted the stay this month after the tests yielded no new evidence.

Amos was convicted of the 1977 rape and murder of Fields, a competing cookie-industry entrepreneur. He killed her after slipping away from a neighboring work-release prison, then set her home on fire.

Amos was caught, in bloody clothing, trying to return to the prison at about the time firefighters and police arrived at Fields's home. He fought with a counselor, the improbably named James Oreo, who was stabbed 15 times with a knife that witnesses said appeared to come from Fields's kitchen.

Amos denied attacking Fields, saying the blood on his clothes came from the fight with Oreo.

"I am not confessing to anything I did not do," Amos said in an interview, adding that he had sent a letter to Fields's family explaining his innocence.

Fields's niece, Lorna Doone-Fields, had planned to attend the execution but had prepared for disappointment after enduring years of delays and stays. "Why did she have to die and somebody who was never productive got to live all these years?" she said.

Amos became the 55th inmate to die since Florida reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Gov. Bob Graham signed Amos's first execution warrant in 1981, and Gov. Bob Martinez signed another in 1988. Under Bush, his execution was stayed four times last year.

Debra Buchanan of the Department of Corrections said Amos was not offered a special meal because he already had received two of them during previous stays. His final meal, ironically, turned out to be a bag of his own famous chocolate chip cookies, with a Mrs. Fields macadamia nut cookie for dessert.