On 15 March 2018, 50-year-old Michael Wayne Eggers was executed by lethal injection in Alabama. Eggers had received word less than two hours earlier that a stay of execution request submitted without his consent by his former attorneys had been denied. After being convicted in 2002 of murdering his former employer, carnival owner Bennie Francis Murray, Eggers spent years arguing his case in appeal courts. In 2017, Eggers changed his mind. Instead of fighting his conviction he dropped all of his appeals and requested the State proceed with his execution.
Eggers wrote in his handwritten request that “he was seeking justice for himself and for the family members of the homicide victim,” and he requested his “execution and sentence of death be carried out immediately.”
67-year-old Bennie Francis Murray, known as ‘Francis’, had previously employed Eggers in the carnival business she owned with her husband. He had worked with the travelling carnival until September 2000, when he met a woman in Jasper, Alabama and decided to stay on.
In December of that year, he made contact with Francis Murray again asking for his job back. Three days after Christmas, Murray picked up Eggers and his 15-year-old son at his request from a bus station in Birmingham. She took them both to Talladega where she lived and tried to help him find employment. With no success, two days later Eggers asked her to take them back to Jasper which she readily agreed to do.
It seems that Francis Murray only tried to help Michael Wayne Eggers. She went to pick him up when he called her out of the blue. She tried to find him a job so he would have employment and money before the carnival was due to start travelling again in March the following year. Her kind heart and decision to take Eggers back to Jasper on that day in December 2000 ended in her brutal death.
Eggers told police while driving to Jasper he told Murray he had abandoned his own car the week before in a ditch due to bad weather and he wanted to go and retrieve it. His son was dropped off at their Jasper apartment before once again she agreed to take Eggers where he wanted to go.
Unable to find the vehicle and after driving around for some time, Murray he said told him she didn’t want to go any further and wanted to turn the car around. An argument ensued between the pair and she slapped him for the way he spoke to her. Eggers began to beat her, throwing her unconscious body out of the car onto the road. He drove forward and turned the car around before he returned to her body. As she lay beaten and barely conscious, he kicked her repeatedly, choked her, and placed a tree branch against her throat. Standing on the branch to force his full weight down onto her neck, Francis Murray expired. He then dragged her body away from the road and into the nearby undergrowth, hiding it from view.
Eggers immediately took Murray’s car through a car wash to remove the visible blood stains on the outside and stole the money that was in her purse. Police found her car four days later in Franklin, Kentucky and after using phone records, Eggers was found in Florida where he told police what he had done and took them to where he had left Francis Murray’s body.
“On the night of her murder, Mrs. Murray gave Eggers a lift to pick up his car. Instead of showing her gratitude, Eggers rewarded her kindness by brutally beating and strangling her.”
He claimed no pre-meditation to the murder, he had lost his temper due to Murray slapping him and his killing of her was a spontaneous act, he said. At his trial in December 2002, Eggers pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, yet he presented no evidence to the court to support the notion he was mentally ill at the time of the murder. The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict and recommendation that he be put to death for his crime.
Alabama is one of 31 US states who currently have the death penalty and has carried out 62 executions since 1976. After Eggers request to proceed with his execution, his former attorneys filed an appeal, without the cooperation of Eggers, at the US Supreme Court stating Eggers is mentally ill and incapable of making the decisions of discontinuing his appeals, firing his attorneys and asking for his immediate execution.
In court documents filed in May 2017 at the United States Court of Appeals for the eleventh circuit, the judges stated, “The district court could find as it did that Eggers was entitled to abandon his appeals, dismiss counsel and proceed to execution.” Continuing, “Just because an inmate may disagree with counsel or with a ruling court does not yield a conclusion that the inmate is psychotic or delusional.” The appeal was denied, allowing the scheduled execution to go ahead.
The execution of Michael Wayne Eggers was the first Alabama had carried out after the botched execution reported in February of Doyle Lee Hamm. Previously suffering from cancer and having a history of intravenous drug abuse, concerns had been raised over the condition of his veins. After over two hours of trying and 10 puncture wounds, according to the Guardian, the execution of Hamm was halted.
Michael Eggers had been on death row for 16 years. “The facts are clear, and Mr. Eggers admits, that he went to great lengths to ensure Mrs. Murray’s death and then to hide the evidence of his crime.” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a released statement. With no final words and a simple thumbs up gesture to his family watching from the viewing area, Eggers sentence was carried out. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said after the execution, “After 18 years of waiting, justice has finally been served tonight for the Murray family.”