|Marcus Ray Johnson|
Marcus Ray Johnson has been put to death, the 1st of 7 expected to come over the next weeks and months as issues of the state's lethal injection drug has been resolved and death penalty cases complete the usual round of appeals.
The appointed time of his death was 7 p.m., but actual execution almost never comes until hours later, after all the courts have reviewed last-minute appeals and decided.
He was pronounced dead at 10:11 p.m.
Johnson visited with 3 paralegals, an attorney, 2 investigators, 1 friend and 5 family members until around 3 p.m., and then was moved to a holding cell just a few steps from the death chamber. He declined to make a recorded final statement.
Johnson, 50, had asked for a 6-pack of beer for his last meal but that request was turned down because, the Department of Corrections said, alcohol is "contraband" inside a prison. Instead, Johnson settled for the same meal served to the rest of the inmates at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison about 50 miles south of Atlanta. But he did not eat his dinner.
Outside the prison, death penalty opponents gathered at the edge of the prison property and about a mile from the building that houses the execution chamber. They prayed as they waited on final word.
Wednesday night the state Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Johnson's request for clemency and court after court on Thursday also rejected his appeals, in which he claimed he was innocent of murdering Angela Sizemore.
Johnson and Sizemore met at an Albany bar called Fundamentals shortly after midnight on March 24, 1994. They drank, danced and kissed before leaving for a nearby empty lot where they had sex. Johnson told police he remembered little because he had drank so much tequila, but he did recall punching Sizemore because she wanted to cuddle.
He insisted, however, that she was alive when he left her sitting in the field, crying. Her body was found around 8 a.m. inside her SUV, which was parked behind an apartment complex on the other side of town from the bar. She had been stabbed 41 times.
Johnson's lawyers said there was little physical evidence connecting the 2 - a drop of her blood on his jacket (which Johnson said got on him when he punched Sizemore) and the remnants of their sexual relations. His lawyer said there would have been copious amounts of blood on his clothes if he had stabbed her, and his fingerprints and other DNA would have been inside her SUV if he had driven it across town. He also challenged the eyewitnesses who said they saw him in the neighborhood where Sizemore's Suburban was found.
The Parole Board, as is its practice, did not give a reason for denying Johnson's clemency request, writing in the order only that the 5 members had "thoroughly and painstakingly reviewed and considered all of the facts and circumstances of the offender and his offense, the clemency application, argument, testimony and opinion in support of and against clemency."
The courts turned down his appeals on the basis that his arguments had been heard before and were not new.
Johnson becomes the 4th condemned inmate put to death in Georgia this year and the 59th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.
Johnson becomes the 27th and final condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA, and the 1,421st overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977. The 27 executions continues a downward trend in the USA since 2010, and represents the fewest amount of executions in the USA since 1991, when the nation carried out 14 executions.
The next scheduled execution in the US is set for January 20, 2016, in Texas.
Sources: Atlanta Journal Consitution, Rick Halperin, November 19, 2015