Just an hour after hearing from those who wanted to see Atlanta cop killer Gregory Lawler executed, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied his request for clemency.
Lawler, 63, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday at 7 p.m. for the Oct. 12,1979, murder of Atlanta police officer John "Rick" Sowa. Sowa's partner, Pat Cocciolone, was critically wounded in the shooting that came moments after the 2 officers had walked Lawler's drunk girlfriend to the door of the apartment they shared.
For 3 hours this morning, the 5 member board heard pleas from Lawler's brother and lawyers to spare him because Lawler just learned 3 weeks ago that he is autistic and that worked against him when he testified at his trial in 2000 and when he was interviewed by a board investigator last week.
Sowa's widow, his sister, Cocciolone and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard spent about 1 1/2 hours with the board Tuesday afternoon.
On a Sunday evening 19 years and one week ago, Sowa and Cocciolone were dispatched to investigate a report of a man hitting a woman with a bag in a parking lot hear the intersection of Piedmont Avenue and Lindbergh Drive. They came up on Lawler trying to pull his girlfriend, Donna Rodgers, to her feet. After Lawler walked off, the officers decided to drive the intoxicated woman home.
Moments after Rodgers had walked into the apartment she shared with Lawler, Lawler shot the fleeing officers with armor-piercing bullets. Sowa died on the lawn while Cocciolone, though wounded, called for help. Both officers still had their guns holstered.
If he is executed, Lawler will be the 7th person Georgia has put to death this year, which is more than any other year since the current death penalty law was adopted her 40 years ago. Only Texas has executed as many as 7 people since Jan. 1.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, October 19, 2016
Clemency denied for convicted cop killer facing death penalty
Officials deciding the fate of a Georgia man set to be executed for killing a cop and injuring another have made their decision.
After a clemency hearing Tuesday morning, the Georgia Parole Board has denied the request by attorneys for Gregory Paul Lawler. Lawler is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
The 63-year-old was convicted of murder in October 1997 after shooting and killing Atlanta Police officer John Sowa and critically injuring officer Patricia Cocciolone. Prosecutors say Lawler, then 45 years old, shot the officers as they tried to help bring his intoxicated girlfriend home. During testimony a few years later, Lawler claimed that he didn't trust the police and was a victim in the crime, despite evidence to the contrary.
Lawler was sentenced to the death penalty in 2000. New unsealed documents from the State Board of Pardons and Paroles released Monday show Lawler's attorneys have asked the board to halt the execution after Lawler was diagnosed with autism. According to the man's attorneys, the recent diagnosis helps explain his actions that night.
The board, which is the only authority that can commute a death sentence, considered the request during the Tuesday hearing. The board said they came to their decision after reviewing all case materials from Lawler's file, including the life and criminal history of the inmate, and circumstances of the crime.
If there are no additional last minute stays, Lawler will become the 7th Georgia inmate executed this year.
Source: Associated Press, October 19, 2016
Georgia preparing to execute man who killed Atlanta officer
Georgia is preparing to execute a man convicted of killing an Atlanta police officer and wounding a 2nd officer with an AR-15 rifle.
Gregory Paul Lawler is scheduled to die Wednesday evening by injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson.
Lawler, who's 63, was convicted in the October 1997 slaying of Officer John Sowa. Authorities say he also critically wounding Officer Patricia Cocciolone.
Lawler's attorneys have argued that a recent autism diagnosis helps explain his actions that night and that his life should be spared. Legal maneuvers to save his life are pending in the courts.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles, which is the only authority in Georgia with power to commute a death sentence, on Tuesday declined to grant him clemency.
Source: Associated Press, October 19, 2016
Georgia execution would mark milestones in death penalty dealings
Should the state of Georgia execute Gregory Paul Lawler as planned Wednesday night, it will mark a milestone in at least 2 different ways.
Lawler was sentenced to death for the 1997 killing of Atlanta police officer John Sowa. His execution, set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, would be the 7th in Georgia in 2016. That would make 2 more than in 2015 and make Georgia the only state in the nation accelerating the rate of executions year over year. That's the 1st milestone.
As for the 2nd, Lawler's execution would tie Georgia with Texas for the number of executions this year. Texas generally leads the nation.
Richard Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said this is because something new is happening in Texas that isn't happening in Georgia.
"The state courts in Georgia are not granting hearings to consider evidence that there was police misconduct or prosecutorial misconduct or junk science that was being used," Dunham said.
State courts in Texas are considering those factors now that state law allows for it. The law was changed after a number of high profile exonerations in death row cases. Executions in Texas have been cut in half since 2015, as some inmates have won stays of execution.
Lawler's attorneys argued for clemency to Georgia's parole board on the basis of his recent autism diagnosis, according to court briefs. Were that evidence presented in court, the resulting decision would be public record. The parole board, appointed by the governor, is not bound by law to share details of its findings. The board denied Lawler's clemency request Tuesday.
Despite the increase in the number of executions in Georgia, the handing of down of death sentences by juries continues to slow. Lawler's conviction in 2000 came at the tail end of the peak for capital punishment in Georgia following its reinstatement in the 1970s.
Until 2000, the state averaged 10 death sentences a year. Since 2000 that number has been closer to 2 a year. There were no death sentences handed down in 2015, which was the 6th year Georgia juries could choose life without the possibility of parole instead of a death sentence.
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