MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Alabama has scheduled a lethal injection for a man convicted in the 1997 deaths of four people, including two young girls.
The Alabama Supreme Court set a May 16 execution date for Michael Brandon Samra, 41.
As a teenager, Samra was convicted of helping his friend Mark Duke kill his father Randy Duke, his father's girlfriend Debra Hunt and her 6 and 7-year-old daughters.
Prosecutors said the Shelby County slayings happened after Duke became angry when his father wouldn't let him use his truck. They said the teens executed a plan to kill Duke's father and then killed the others to cover up his death.
Authorities say Mark Duke killed his father, Hunt and one of the girls, and that Samra slit the throat of the other child at Duke's direction while the girl pleaded for her life.
"The murders which were committed with a gun and kitchen knife were as brutal as they come," lawyers for the state wrote in the motion to set an execution date.
Duke was 16 at the time of the slayings. Samra was 19. Both were sentenced to the death penalty. However, Duke's death sentence was converted to life without parole after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled prisoners couldn't be put to death for crimes that happened while they were younger than 18.
Samra's attorney wrote in a court filing that Duke was the driving force behind the slayings and prosecutors have acknowledged Duke was the "mastermind" while Samra was the "minion."
Defense lawyer Steven Spears also wrote the case also involves the peculating legal issue of whether people should be executed for crimes committed when they were younger than 21.
In a separate death penalty case, a judge has scheduled a June trial on another inmate's challenge to Alabama's lethal injection process. A federal judge earlier this month stayed the execution of Christopher Lee Price. A divided U.S. Supreme Court vacated the stay, but the decision came after the death warrant expired.
Price has requested to be put to death by breathing pure nitrogen gas. Alabama authorized nitrogen hypoxia in 2018 as an alternative for carrying out death sentences, but has yet to use the method.