Georgia Execution Has Nationwide Implications - With Update

Jun 17, 2014


STAY DENIED: The following is a statement from the Georgia Supreme Court issued this evening.

Atlanta, June 17, 2014 – In a 5-to-2 ruling, the Supreme Court of Georgia has denied a stay of execution for Marcus A. Wellons, who is scheduled to be put to death tonight by lethal injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA. 

Wellons, 59, was convicted in Cobb County in 1993 of raping and strangling 15-year-old India Roberts, who lived in Vinings, GA, near the home of Wellons’ girlfriend. In addition to denying Wellons’ Motion for Stay of Execution, the Court has denied his application to appeal a Fulton County court order dismissing his constitutional challenge of the Georgia statute that protects as a “confidential state secret” the identities of the producers and suppliers of the state’s lethal injection drugs. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney also denied Wellons’ request for preliminary injunction and stay of execution. All the Justices concurred in today’s ruling except Justices Robert Benham and Carol Hunstein, who dissented.  

Original Story

  Georgia death row inmate Marcus Wellons is scheduled to die by lethal injection today.

Barring a last minute intervention from the courts, Wellons execution would be the first since April 29th.

That’s when an Oklahoma inmate died of a heart attack during an execution which took nearly 45 minutes.

Wellons request for a stay of execution has been denied by the Georgia State Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeal 11th Circuit.

WABE’s Rose Scott reports this execution has nationwide implications because of legal challenges to the secrecy surrounding execution drug manufacturers.

If there are any problems with tonight’s execution, Georgia State University law Professor Lauren Lucas says expect more of those legal challenges.

“It’s just simply not right that you can use any means actually kill the individual. You know, we don’t tolerate torture. We don’t tolerate cruel and unusual punishment. So, not every means of execution is going to be upheld under the constitution.”

Number of executions in Georgia by year since 1983.
Credit Marylee Williams/WABE

  Challenges to the Georgia law that keeps the identity of the execution drug supplier a secret have not succeeded.

But that law according to Steven Hawkins allows for what he calls an experimental and cruel method of ending someone’s life.

“We have seen numerous problems with lethal injection themselves through personnel administering the drugs who are not trained medical professionals in many instances.”

Hawkins is the executive director of Amnesty International in the U.S.

In Oklahoma, an independent autopsy revealed officials failed to properly insert needles into Clayton Lockett’s arm.

Reports say it was clear Lockett was in distress.

The Georgia Department of Corrections says executions here are carried out with extreme detail and all personnel know their duties.

According to documents obtained by WABE, at least two physicians, a nurse and three trained staff members are involved in the execution.

Marcus Wellons, 59, was convicted of the rape and murder of his 15-year-old neighbor India Roberts in 1989. 

Additional information on executions

Although the number of executions in the United States has decreased, the cost of executions has not.

A Duke University study found if North Carolina eliminated the death penalty during the 2005 and 2006 fiscal year, the state would have saved $11 million in criminal justice costs, including incarceration and appeals.

According to a 2001 federal report, the median cost for a federal capital prosecution case authorized by the Attorney General is more than $300,000.