Convicted killer Paul W. Powell, 24, has been recognized with a Darwin Awards honorable mention, because he enabled his own execution by writing a taunting confession to a zealous prosecutor, according to his award citation.
Darwin Awards salute those who improve the gene pool by removing themselves from it, award organizers say.
“These men and women gave their ‘all’ in an effort to improve the human species,” the awards Web site states. “Of necessity, the honor is generally bestowed posthumously.” Darwin Awards organizers did not respond to e-mail requests for an interview.
Powell, on death row at Sussex I State Prison, declined a telephone interview with the Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger. He is scheduled to die Sept. 2; the appeals process will likely push that date back.
Powell’s original conviction and death sentence were overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court, which ruled in 2001 that prosecutors failed to show that Powell committed an additional felony — like rape or robbery, a death penalty qualifier — when he stabbed Stacie Reed and stomped on her throat in her Yorkshire home. Powell was an acquaintance of Stacie’s. When her 14-year-old sister Kristie got home, Powell raped her and slit her throat. Kristie, now 18, testified at both trials.
The Supreme Court told prosecutors they could retry Powell for first-degree murder. The ruling also left open the possibility of another capital trial if new evidence came to light. Powell, thinking he was immune from execution, wrote a letter to Ebert, detailing how events unfolded when he went to the Reed house. He described in detail trying to have sex with Stacie, attacking her, and then sitting on the couch, sipping iced tea waiting for Kristie to come home.
In the letter, he credited Ebert with saving his life.
“Since the Virginia Supreme Court said that I can’t be charged with capital murder again, I figured I would tell you the rest of what happened on January 29, 1999, to show you how stupid y’all are,” Powell wrote.
The letter enabled Ebert to seek another capital trial — with a voluntary confession from the defendant — who was anything but exempt from lethal injection.
“Since the Supreme Court said I can’t be charged with capital murder again, I can tell you what I just told you because I no longer have to worry about the death penalty,” Powell wrote in the October 2001 note.
The honorable mention honors those whose “stupidity … stops short of the ultimate Darwin Awards sacrifice.”
“Powell’s lawyer ‘portrayed his client as a bright young man.’ Bright as a burned-out light bulb!” the citation, titled “The Last Laugh,” states.
The Darwin Awards publishes books such as “Unnatural Selection,” and “Evolution In Action,” and maintains a Web site with message boards for readers to comment on awards.
“If only all criminals were so helpful,” a posting by Darren Zimmerman states.
Each award has an online poll on which readers can vote — proclaiming how good the tale of stupidity is.
Powell received an 8.4 out of 10.