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Man gets wish: his execution

Some death penalty opponents say Glenn Ocha commited suicide. He said he was accepting justice.

By CARRIE JOHNSON
Published April 6, 2005


STARKE - Glenn Ocha woke up Tuesday morning and told the guards outside his cell he was ready to die.

He had been waiting for this day for more than six years, dismissing the lawyers who tried to delay his execution, and waiving all of his appeals.

At 6:01 p.m., as he lay strapped to a gurney at Florida State Prison, Ocha - convicted of killing 28-year-old Carol Skjerva on an October night in 1999 - said he was not a man desperate to die, but a sinner trying to repent.

"I would like to say I apologize to Carol Skjerva, the girl that I murdered, her family and her friends," said Ocha, 47. "This is the punishment that I deserve. I'm taking responsibility for my actions. I want everybody to know I'm not a volunteer but this is my responsibility I have to take."

With that, Ocha closed his eyes and lay completely still as a lethal dose of chemicals was injected into his veins. He joined the growing number of death row inmates in Florida who hastened their deaths, a practice critics call "suicide by governor." Six of the last nine inmates waived appeals and refused attempts to delay their executions.

Ocha was pronounced dead at 6:09 p.m.

"If I had stomach cancer, one of the most painful ways to die, I could not get an assisted suicide in this state," said Abe Bonowitz of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, who led a group of about 40 protesters outside the prison Tuesday. "But if I commit a murder, the state will bend over backwards to help me die."

Ocha, who legally changed his name in prison to Raven Raven, had a well-documented history of suicide attempts. In 1978, he begged a deputy who was arresting him for an unrelated crime to shoot him. Ocha also attempted to hang himself with a jacket in an Orange County holding cell.

He pleaded guilty without a trial to murdering Skjerva, a convenience store clerk from Kissimmee. When the Florida Supreme Court affirmed his conviction in 2002, Ocha waived all further appeals and dismissed his lawyers.

Gov. Jeb Bush said he was prepared to delay Ocha's execution out of respect for the death of the pope, but after checking with members of the victim's family, he decided to proceed. Bush said the family members needed closure.

"It's not an easy thing to do, but it's the right thing to do," Bush told reporters Tuesday morning.

Ocha woke up about 5 a.m. and chatted with guards, said Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections.

"He was in a good mood, very positive," Ivey said. "He even indicated he was glad the execution was tonight."

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Ocha visited with his brother, Martin Ocha, and the Rev. Dale Recinella, a Catholic priest from Macclenny. At 10:30 a.m., he had a final meal of a fried chicken breast, potato salad, kernel corn, two biscuits and a glass of Pepsi.

Recinella stayed with Ocha until 4:30 p.m. Ocha requested and received a Valium before being led to the death chamber, Ivey said.

Ocha told authorities he met Skjerva at a Kissimmee bar where he engraved beer mugs. Drunk and high on ecstasy, he accepted her offer of a ride to his home at Buenaventura Lakes, where they had sex.

Ocha said he grew enraged when Skjerva made a disparaging remark about his anatomy. He made her sit in a chair while he got rope from his garage and tried to strangle her. When his arms grew tired, Ocha hanged her from a door, drinking a beer and cleaning his kitchen as she died.

Next, Ocha stuffed Skjerva's body in an entertainment center in his garage and drove to Daytona Beach. He confessed to the murder after he was arrested for disorderly intoxication.

None of Skjerva's family members witnessed Ocha's execution.

But in a statement read after his death by his lawyer, Greg Hill, Ocha said he was sorry for the pain he caused Skjerva's family and friends. He also denied suggestions he was mentally unfit to waive his appeals, and took issue with those who labeled his death a suicide.

"Throughout this case I have fully accepted my responsibility and the punishment decided by the courts," the statement said. "Many people have given their opinion on whether I was competent to make these decisions. I have made these decisions in this case. I have been examined by more doctors than I can count. Every one of them, at various stages, have found me competent throughout the proceedings."

Hill spent about two hours with Ocha Monday night, and said he seemed lucid and aware of his surroundings.

Ocha was the 60th person executed in Florida since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, and the first since May 26, when John Blackwelder was put to death by lethal injection.

[Last modified April 6, 2005, 01:06:15]


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