Georgia inmate to face capital punishment, first since failed Okla. execution
A Georgia inmate is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday, in what would be the first in the United States since a botched execution in Oklahoma in April ignited renewed debate and scrutiny of the death penalty.
The Georgia execution will be closely watched amid lingering questions about what went wrong during the flawed lethal injection this spring, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.
“We’re in a new climate,” he said. “Everyone – the federal government, the president – is watching.”
Oklahoma murderer and rapist Clayton Lockett died of an apparent heart attack about 30 minutes after prison officials halted his execution, having failed to properly administer the lethal injection.
A preliminary autopsy released by his lawyers last week showed the state did not properly insert an intravenous line to deliver lethal drugs to the inmate, bypassing strong veins in his arms and using a riskier entry point in the groin area.
The White House criticized the execution as being beyond humane standards.
Executions in several states have been stayed for various reasons since Lockett’s death, including the case of Missouri double murderer John Winfield, who had been due to die on Wednesday.
Georgia plans to execute Marcus Wellons, 58, by lethal injection at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) for the 1989 rape and strangulation of his 15-year-old neighbor, India Roberts, whom he abducted as she walked to a school bus stop.
Wellons had sought a new trial on the grounds that his case was tainted when jurors gave erotic chocolate gag gifts to the judge and a bailiff. Appellate judges ruled the gifts were inappropriate but did not affect the proceedings.
On Monday, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down Wellons’ request for clemency.
Wellons would be the first inmate executed in Georgia since the state’s Supreme Court upheld a new law in May shielding the identity and methods of companies that make its lethal injection drugs.
Georgia uses one drug to carry out its lethal injections, while Oklahoma used a three-drug cocktail in Lockett’s execution, Dieter said.
Wellons would be the 21st person executed in the United States this year, Dieter said. Florida also has an execution planned for Wednesday.