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KILLER WHO SOUGHT TV AIRING DIES

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A killer who wanted his gas chamber execution televised on Phil Donahue's show seemed to scream "I'm human! I'm human!" as he took his last gasps early Wed-nes-day.

David Lawson, 38, was executed for the 1980 murder of Wayne Shinn, who caught Lawson breaking into his house.Strapped into a wooden chair and wearing only white boxer shorts, a diaper and socks, Lawson began yelling as his executioners masked his face.

His words weren't clear through the double-paned windows of the death chamber, but he seemed to shout "I'm human! I'm human!" as the airtight door to the room was clamped shut.

He continued screaming as the fog of gas rose about him, then gasped for about five minutes, then was still.

"I am a human being, no more and no less than any other human being. It is no more right for the state of North Carolina to take my life than it was for me to kill Wayne Shinn," he said earlier, in his final statement. "I'm sorry I killed Wayne Shinn. I hope North Carolina will one day be sorry that they killed me."

Lawson had said televising his execution would give his life meaning. Donahue, a death penalty opponent, contended the public has the right to see executions to decide whether capital punishment is right or wrong. State officials argued that televising the execution would make a circus of it.

Death row inmates in North Carolina have the option of lethal injection, but Lawson refused to choose, saying that would amount to sanctioning his execution. Officials had no choice but to send him to the gas chamber.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the argument that death in the gas chamber is cruel and unusual punishment. Only Justice Harry Blackmun dissented.

The court also rejected, without comment, Lawson and Donahue's request to videotape the execution.

Shinn, 35, was shot in the back of the head at point-blank range as he pleaded for his life; his father was also shot in the head but survived.

Lawson was the the 244th inmate executed nationwide since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.