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Capital Punishment in the United States Explained

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To beat the clock on the expiration of its lethal injection drug supply, this past April, Arkansas tried to execute 8 men over 1 days. The stories told in frantic legal filings and clemency petitions revealed a deeply disturbing picture. Ledell Lee may have had an intellectual disability that rendered him constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty, but he had a spate of bad lawyers who failed to timely present evidence of this claim -…

Georgia executes Gregory Paul Lawler

Gregory Paul Lawler
Gregory Paul Lawler
Georgia on Wednesday executed a man who opened fire on Atlanta police with an AR-15 rifle in 1997, killing one officer and critically wounding another after they had given his intoxicated girlfriend a ride home.

Gregory Paul Lawler, 63, was scheduled to be executed by injection at 7 p.m. EDT at a state prison in Jackson.

A request was made to the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution and hear his appeal shortly before his execution was set to go forward, after the Georgia Supreme Court denied his request for a stay. Georgia opposed the request.

About 11 p.m., the Supreme Court announced it had denied his request for a stay of execution. There were no noted dissents.

Gregory Lawler was pronounced dead at 11:49 p.m., after he was injected with a fatal dose of the sedative pentobarbital.

The execution is the seventh this year in Georgia, matching Texas for the most death sentences carried out in a state in 2016, according to data from the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.

Lawler was sentenced to death in 2000 after being found guilty in the murder of officer John Sowa, 28. A second officer, Patricia Cocciolone, survived the shooting with a shattered pelvis, damaged intestines and permanent brain injury. She testified at Lawler's trial, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case.

The synopsis said Lawler and his girlfriend had been drinking at a bar near their Atlanta apartment the night of the October 1997 shooting.

Police were summoned by a witness who thought he saw Lawler hit the woman with a bag as they walked home. Lawler fled when officers arrived.

The officers decided to help the girlfriend get home. At the apartment, they were met by Lawler, who fired at the officers 15 times, the case summary said.

Both Sowa and Cocciolone still had their pistols strapped into their holsters when backup arrived. Lawler surrendered after a six-hour standoff, according to court records.

At his trial, a coworker testified Lawler had talked about having “an extreme dislike” of police and that if they ever tried to enter his home he would be "ready for them," court records said.

Georgia's State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Lawler's request for clemency on Tuesday. In their petition to the board, his attorneys said Lawler had recently been diagnosed with autism, a disorder that had prevented him from explaining the murder to jurors.

"Instead, he could only offer his confused and angry insistence that he had acted within his rights, which provoked his jury further and alarmed even his defense counsel," according to the petition, which sought to have Lawler's sentence commuted to life in prison without parole.

Lawler spent much of the day Wednesday visiting his brother, Gerald, at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson. At 3 p.m. he was given a physical and was served his last meal.

Lawler becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia, and the 67th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.

The 7th execution in Georgia is the most carried out in a single year in that state since the death penalty was re-instated by the US Supreme Court on July 2, 1976.

Lawler becomes the 17th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1439th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: Reuters, AJC, Twitter live feed, Rick Halperin, October 19, 2016

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