An Oklahoma inmate who recently attempted suicide was put to death last night for killing a man during a knife fight nearly two decades ago, marking the nation’s first execution this year, The Oklahoman reports. Before he died, Gary Welch, 49, chanted apparent references to Norse mythology, which he had studied behind bars. On his fourth chant, Welch passed out as the drugs began to kick in.
Welch’s execution came nearly three weeks after he tried to kill himself by slitting his throat with a smuggled shaving razor. Prison officials and Welch’s own court-appointed attorney insisted he was sane and understood his fate. Welch maintained that he only killed in self-defense. Nothing in Welch’s court record indicated that the issue of his sanity or mental capacity was ever raised, and prosecutors presented evidence at the pardon and parole hearing suggesting that Welch was a bully in prison who enjoyed watching violent movies, pushed around other inmates, and was once caught with a homemade knife in his cell.