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S. CAROLINA EXECUTES MENTALLY RETARDED MAN

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"I am the happiest man in the world," Sylvester Adams, 39, said Friday as he lay strapped to a prison gurney, lethal injection needles in his arms. "I'm not afraid to die. I'm not crazy."

His voice softened as he sang his last words: "I love you, I love you, Lord."The state and U.S. Supreme Court both rejected arguments that the legal system did not consider the former manual laborer's mild retardation or psychological problems.

Adams was convicted of strangling 16-year-old Bryan Chambers, a mildly retarded neighbor in Rock Hill. Prosecutors said Adams broke into Chambers' house in 1979 looking for money and when he found none, he dragged Chambers into a nearby woods and killed him.

The jury that convicted Adams and gave him the death sentence was not told that his IQ indicated he is mildly retarded or that he has a mental illness that could cause him to burst into a rage, his appeal lawyers said.

"This is a kid who slipped through the cracks of the mental health system, the social system and the justice system," said appeals lawyer John Blume.

Four of the state's Supreme Court justices said Adams' trial was fair and had withstood numerous appeals.

Chief Justice Ernest Finney dissented. "I can conceive of few violations more shocking to the uni-vers-al sense of justice," he said, "than condemning to death a man of abnormally limited intellectual ability, a dysfunctional childhood, and whose trial record reflects unremediated material errors."

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a final appeal without comment.

Gov. David Beasley refused to consider commuting the death sentence, despite a request to do so from the victim's mother and death penalty opponents.

Under a new state law, Adams was the first South Carolina inmate allowed to choose injection instead of the electric chair.

He was the 37th person executed in the United States this year and the 294th since the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to resume capital punishment.