Digging Deeper: Johnson's stay - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Digging Deeper: Johnson's stay

A Dougherty County Judge stayed the execution for Ray Johnson Tuesday, but an appeal of that decision could put the execution back on.

Johnson was supposed to be executed tomorrow night for the 1994 rape and stabbing death of Angela Sizemore.

Defense attorneys for Ray Johnson argue there are enough questions about Johnson's conviction to warrant a new trial and new DNA testing.

"The blood on Mr. Johnson's jacket was never conclusively determined to be Miss Sizemore's it could have been but the DNA evidence wasn't adequate to the task at that time," said Johnson's Attorney Brian Kammer of the Georgia Resource Center.

Today they argued new DNA tissue testing technology exists and could be used to test blood, saliva, hair, and clothing, and fingernail clippings collected from Angela Sizemore.

"I think this case cries out for DNA testing of available evidence that could exclude Mr. Johnson of the perpetrator of the murder of Miss Sizemore it could implicate another suspect," said Kammer.

Judge Willie Lockette stopped short of granting that request today, but did stay the execution and set a hearing in February to consider whether he should order retesting or a new trial.

"In light of the recent execution of Troy Davis under a culpable cloud of uncertainty of his guilty or innocence I think that it is more than appropriate to take the opportunity now to resolve through new DNA testing methods some questions that could really shed some light onto whether Mr. Johnson is in fact guilty of this crime," said Kammer.

Prosecutors didn't want to speculate that's why the stay was granted but admit it's on everyone's mind.

"In light of the atmosphere raised by that particular situation and in fact that's what was done as I understand it in the Troy Davis case, the Supreme Court did the unprecedented act to sending the trial back to examine if the evidence was actually appropriate and we are in that type of atmosphere," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.

They still argue, other evidence including eyewitness accounts and Johnson's pocket knife they say was used to stab Sizemore more than 40 times are enough to convict him.

"The DNA testing does not do anything in terms of identifying anybody else or would identify anybody else even if there's somebody's else DNA on anything else, that does not remove all of the other evidence," said Edwards.

Several appeals still exist, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, should the Georgia Supreme Court overturn Judge Lockette's ruling.

The Georgia Supreme Court received notice of the appeal late Tuesday afternoon, and should decide in the morning whether to lift Judge Lockette's stay.

The Board of Pardons and Paroles still has not ruled on a clemency appeal.

We have raw video of portions of today's court hearing linked to this story on WALB-dot-com, but we warn you some of the testimony is graphic.

Copyright 2011 WALB.  All rights reserved.   

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