Florida set to execute 'ninja killer' over 1989 murders

Gaskin earned his nickname from the media because he wore all black during the deadly burglary on December 20, 1989

Death row inmate Louis Gaskin. — AFP
Death row inmate Louis Gaskin. — AFP


Published: Wed 12 Apr 2023, 10:11 PM

Last updated: Wed 12 Apr 2023, 10:12 PM

The US state of Florida on Wednesday was set to execute a man known as "the ninja killer," more than three decades after a split jury voted to put him to death for murdering a couple in 1989.

Louis Gaskin, 56, was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 6:00 pm (22H00 GMT) -- one of three executions Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has approved so far this year.

Gaskin earned his nickname from the media because he wore all black during the deadly burglary on December 20, 1989.

Armed with a rifle, he fired through the window of a New Jersey couple's winter home, killing a man and wounding his wife, according to court documents. He eventually fatally shot the woman as she attempted to flee.

The clock, lamps and videocassette he stole from the house were to be Christmas gifts for his girlfriend.

Gaskin robbed a second house later that night, injuring a man who then, along with his wife, fled in his car.

Gaskin confessed to the crimes when he was arrested about two weeks later, and was found guilty of the two murders.

The jury voted 8-4 to recommend the death penalty. At the time, only a majority vote was required for capital punishment. The state now requires a unanimous vote to recommend execution.

In the decades since Gaskin's conviction, his lawyers have lodged a number of appeals, arguing he suffered from a number of psychological disorders.

In 1991, a Florida appeals court recognized that he suffered from schizophrenia and auditory hallucinations, but judged that he remained conscious of the gravity of his actions and thereby was legally responsible.

DeSantis signed off on Gaskin's execution orders last month, and the US Supreme Court rejected his final appeal.

The governor, considered to be a potential 2024 Republican presidential contender, only oversaw two executions during his first term.

But since January, as speculation about a presidential run is heating up, he has signed off on three execution orders.

Noreen Rector, who escaped from Gaskin's second robbery, said she opposed the execution.

"I would be satisfied if Louis remained in prison, without the possibility of release. I don't believe the death penalty serves any purpose," Rector wrote in a statement to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, a local Florida paper.

"What will really bother me," she said, "is if this might, in some way, advance Florida Governor DeSantis in his presidential quest."

The death penalty is legal in 27 US states, though three have imposed a moratorium on the practice -- as has the federal government under President Joe Biden.

Since the beginning of the year, nine people have been put to death: five in Texas, two in Missouri, one in Florida, and one in Oklahoma.

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