JACKSON — The Georgia Supreme Court has refused to vacate a Superior Court order that stays the execution Marcus Ray Johnson, an Albany man convicted in 1998 of killing Angela Sizemore in 1994.
In Jackson Wednesday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison where Johnson remains on death row, armed guards stood watch at the prison gates awaiting word from the high court on whether Chief Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette’s order delaying Johnson’s execution would stand.
Had the Supreme Court lifted the order, prison officials were prepared to carry out the execution.
Instead, around 2 p.m. after the justices voted unanimously to deny Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards’ emergency appeal on what they called “procedural grounds,” the prison received the information from the court upholding Lockette’s stay.
Wednesday’s decision means that Johnson’s attorneys will have until Feb. 1 to bolster their argument that evidence exists that, if tested using modern forensic science, would be likely to cause a jury to acquit Johnson if he were to be given a new trial.
Edwards said in court Tuesday the request for DNA testing was a delaying tactic and ruse to buy Johnson more time.
Wednesday, Edwards said that he likely wouldn’t try to appeal the stay any further, but that he would continue the fight at the Dougherty County Superior Court level by filing a round of new motions in the case in the coming weeks.
“I intend to reapproach the case here ... filing our own motions here in this court and taking the case that route,” Edwards said.
Brian Kammer, an attorney for the Georgia Resource Center who is one of Johnson’s defense attorneys, had no official statement following the decision by the court Wednesday.
Johnson, 46, was scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Wednesday by lethal injection in Jackson. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the March 24, 1994, rape, torture and murder of Angela Sizemore in Albany.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which conducted a hearing Monday on clemency for Johnson, has suspended that consideration, based on the decision from the Supreme Court.
Absent in Jackson were the hordes of demonstrators and activists who assembled en mass to protest the use of the death penalty when Troy Davis was put to death Sept. 21.
Davis became an international figure after witnesses, who were originally used to convict Davis of the shooting of an off-duty Savannah police officer, began recanting their statements.
According to documents obtained by The Associated Press, Davis continued to proclaim his innocence and his fight against the death penalty to his last words, urging his supporters to “continue to fight this fight.”
But, Wednesday, just hours before Johnson faced being put to death, the area in front of the prison was quiet except for the conversations of prison guards manning the main gate. It was absent any protesters or activists.