ALBANY, Ga. — The Georgia Attorney General’s office says an Albany man convicted of killing a Lee County woman in 1994 will be put to death at 7 p.m. on Oct. 5.
The Dougherty Judicial District’s District Attorney’s office received an execution order Thursday morning for Marcus Ray Johnson.
Johnson was convicted of stabbing Angela Sizemore more than 41 times before impaling her with a tree limb and leaving her in a truck on a dirt road after leaving a bar in 1994.
District Attorney Greg Edwards, who tried the case and who recommended the death penalty to then-District Attorney Britt Priddy, said he feels the death penalty is warranted in Johnson’s case given the brutality of Sizemore’s murder.
Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Sam Olens, said Johnson would be put to death, barring a last-minute appeal.
According to the official record of the Georgia Supreme Court, the evidence introduced at trial showed that Sizemore met Johnson in a west Albany bar called Fundamentals between 12:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. on March 24, 1994. Sizemore had been to a memorial service for an acquaintance the previous day, and she had been drinking so heavily the bar had stopped serving her.
Johnson was wearing a black leather jacket, jeans, black biker boots, and a distinctive turquoise ring. According to a witness, Johnson was angry and frustrated because another woman had spurned his advances earlier in the evening. The bar owner and its security officer (who both personally knew Johnson) testified that they saw Johnson and Sizemore kissing and behaving amorously.
Johnson and Sizemore left Fundamentals together; the bartender handed Ms. Sizemore’s car keys directly to Johnson. They were seen walking toward Sixteenth Avenue.
At approximately 8 a.m. on March 24, a man walking his dog found Ms. Sizemore’s white Suburban parked behind an apartment complex in east Albany, on the other side of town from Fundamentals. Ms. Sizemore’s body was lying across the front passenger seat. She had been cut and stabbed 41 times with a small, dull knife, and she had bruises and marks from being hit and dragged. The fatal wounds were six stab wounds to the heart.
Four people testified that they saw Johnson about an hour before the body was found. Two witnesses testified that they saw him walk from the area where the victim’s Suburban was parked through an apartment complex to a bus stop. He boarded a bus and asked if the bus would take him to the Monkey Palace, a bar where Johnson worked, in west Albany.
Three witnesses, including the bus driver, identified Johnson as being on the bus. Two witnesses stated that their attention was drawn to Johnson because that area of Albany is predominantly African-American, and it was extremely unusual to see a Caucasian there at that time of day. All the witnesses testified that Johnson’s clothes were soiled with dirt or a substance they had assumed to be red clay.
The witnesses gave similar descriptions of his clothing; in court, two witnesses who sat near Johnson on the bus identified his jacket, boots and distinctive turquoise ring.
The police determined that Ms. Sizemore was murdered in a vacant lot near Sixteenth Avenue in west Albany. Present in the lot were bloodstains, scuff marks, drag marks, and a pecan branch with blood and tissue on one end. The vacant lot is about two blocks from Fundamentals and about half a block from the house where Johnson lived with his mother.
A friend of Johnson’s testified that after he called her early on March 24, she picked him up at his house at 9:30 a.m. and took him to her home, where he slept on her couch for several hours. Johnson then told her he wanted to take a bus to Tennessee and that he needed her to go to the Monkey Palace to pick up some money he was owed.
At his request, she dropped him off near a church while she went to get the money. The police were waiting for Johnson to show up, and they returned with the friend and arrested Johnson. Before they told him why they were arresting him, he blurted, “I’m Marcus Ray Johnson. I’m the person you’re looking for.”
DNA testing revealed the presence of the victim’s blood on Johnson’s leather jacket. Johnson had a pocketknife that was consistent with the knife wounds on the victim’s body. He had scratches on his hands, arms, and neck. In a statement, Johnson said he and the victim had sex in the vacant lot and he “kind of lost it.”
According to Johnson, the victim became angry because he did not want to “snuggle” after sex, and he punched her in the face. He stated he “hit her hard” and then walked away, and he does not remember anything else until he woke up after daybreak in his front yard.
He said, “I didn’t kill her intentionally if I did kill her.”
In their closing statement to jurors, Edwards and his co-counsel, Brad Pierce, called Johnson a “killer-rapist,” and likened his attack on Sizemore to that of the infamous Jack the Ripper — the serial killer who stalked the Whitechapel section of London in the late 1880s, killing and mutilating at least five women.
“He,” Pierce said, pointing to Johnson, “was the judge, jury and executioner. He mutilated her; you wouldn’t treat a dog like that. This is like Jack the Ripper. Rage, hate and anger ...”
“Marcus Ray Johnson is a killer-rapist,” Edwards told jurors. “He is guilty. There is no reasonable basis to doubt his guilt.”
However, for some, there was doubt.
Superior Court Judge Ronnie Joe Lane was one of Johnson’s defense attorneys when the case was tried in 1999. According to coverage of the trial in The Albany Herald, Lane and co-defense attorney Tony Jones raised concerns over several items, including an audible “break” in the tape recording of Johnson’s statement with detectives that was never explained. The only usable fingerprint obtained from Sizemore’s vehicle didn’t match Johnson’s, and the newest DNA technology wasn’t used.
Ironically, Lane and Sizemore’s cousin, James Sizemore, are now both Southwest Georgia judges. Both said Thursday that their positions as judges prevented them from speaking publicly about the case.
According to Kane, Johnson was indicted in Dougherty County Superior Court in 1994 and re-indicted on Nov. 26, 1997 for malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, rape, aggravated battery and armed robbery.
On April 5, 1998, following a jury trial, Johnson was convicted of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, rape and aggravated battery. The jury’s recommendation of a death sentence was returned on April 7, 1998.
In July 1999, Johnson appealed his initial conviction, and the Georgia Supreme Court upheld Johnson’s convictions and sentence. Johnson then appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied the appeal in 2000.
Johnson, represented by the Georgia Resource Center, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County on June 2, 2000. Johnson amended that petition on Nov. 9.
An evidentiary hearing was held on June 2002. On Jan. 7, 2004, the state habeas corpus court entered an order denying Johnson’s appeal.
Johnson’s application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court was denied on July 11, 2005.
Johnson filed another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which again refused to hear his case, in April 2006.
In June 2006, Johnson, represented by the Georgia Resource Center, filed an appeal in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. On Sept. 30, 2009, the district court denied Johnson’s appeal. The district court denied a motion to alter and amend judgment on Oct. 30, 2009 but granted Johnson a certificate of appealability on Jan. 6, 2010.
On March 3, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta granted in part Johnson’s application for expansion of certificate of appealability. The case was orally argued before the Eleventh Circuit on July 29, 2010, and on Aug. 23, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion which denied Johnson’s appeal.
Johnson filed a petition for a panel rehearing, which was denied Oct. 13, 2010.
Finally, Johnson filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied June 20, 2011.