By Verna Gates
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (Reuters) - Alabama is scheduled on Thursday to execute a 28-year-old man, who has been described by an advocacy group as mentally ill, for the 2005 killing of an 80-year-old D-Day paratrooper.
It will be the state's first execution since October 2011.
Andrew Reid Lackey's execution by lethal injection is scheduled for 6 p.m. local time at Holman prison in Atmore.
Lackey was sentenced to death in 2008 for the murder of Charlie Newman, a paratrooper during World War Two, who was stabbed 70 times in the small town of Athens, Alabama.
The victim's grandson had told Lackey that his grandfather had a vault filled with gold bars, according to court documents.
On a 911 recording from Newman's home, the veteran's last words were, "Come sit down and let me pray for you." He was trying to calm Lackey, who was a close friend of his grandson, according to court records.
On the recording, Lackey could be heard asking for the location of the vault.
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a Montgomery-based group focusing on the rights of prisoners, argued that Lackey was mentally ill and had attempted suicide. He "lives in Andrew land," and takes multiple psychotropic drugs, the group said in a statement.
Even though he has not exhausted his legal appeals, according to court records. Lackey wrote to the Alabama Supreme Court last year requesting that his death sentence be carried out.
EJI went to court to stop the execution arguing that the judge should have properly evaluated Lackey's mental competency before permitting him to waive his appeals, but an appeals court allowed the judge's ruling to stand.
Bryan Stevenson, EJI's director, said on Thursday that a family member had intervened on Lackey's behalf to expedite the execution.
If he is put to death, Lackey will be the 21st person executed in the United States so far this year.
(Editing by David Adams, Greg McCune and Jeffrey Benkoe)