Cromartie granted execution stay, murder victim’s daughter hopes to stop death penalty

Cromartie granted execution stay

ATLANTA, Ga. (WALB) - A man set to die Wednesday night for the murder of a Thomasville store clerk has a reprieve.

The Supreme Court of Georgia has just issued a stay of execution for Ray Jefferson Cromartie, who was scheduled to be executed Wednesday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, for the 1994 murder of Richard Slysz in Thomas County.

The order states that the motion to stay the pending execution order “is provisionally granted until further order of this Court to the extent that a stay is necessary at all in the light of the arguable voidness of the pending execution order.”

The Court is directing attorneys for the State and Cromartie to file briefs addressing the procedural matter of “'whether the pending execution order is void’ because it was filed by the trial court while the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over the case."

The Court said the “question is whether the trial court lacked jurisdiction to file the pending execution order because at the time it did so, an application for appeal filed by Cromartie’s attorneys already was pending in this Court.”

The parties’ briefs will be due at the Supreme Court by Monday, Nov. 4 at 8 a.m.

Family reacts to stay of execution

Both Cromartie’s family and Slysz’s daughter are remaining hopeful that DNA testing will be done before an execution happens.

In a letter from Elizabeth Legette, she calls the execution wrong.

She, along with Cromartie’s family, said Cromartie should have the opportunity to prove his case. They’re hoping he is granted this opportunity since the execution has been halted.

“I just got with the rest of my family and we were just overjoyed and we started hugging and just all of us was just crying,” said Anthoney Cromartie, Ray’s brother. “We all prayed and just said, ‘Hey, we just turn it over into God’s hands. You know if this is your will, whatever you allow to happen with Ray.’”

The family was at the Georgia Department of Corrections in Butts County, hoping Cromartie's execution wouldn't happen.

And since it has been halted as the Supreme Court reviews whether the execution order is valid, the family is fighting for one thing.

“What we’re really pushing for is this DNA. We’re trying to figure out why they’re making it so hard to grant him DNA,” said Anthoney.

A statement released from Cromartie’s attorney shows the victim’s daughter wants the same thing.

In two letters Legette said the execution is wrong without testing being done first.

She said her father’s death was senseless, but executing another man would also be senseless if he may not be the killer.

Anthoney agrees.

“It would show that my brother is innocent. He was there during the crime, they say he was there. But it would prove that he wasn’t the person that pulled that trigger,” said Anthoney.

Prosecutors said it would be difficult for DNA to show up on a piece of evidence from 25 years ago.

The state said there is a standard that has to be met. Prosecutors said the defense would have to prove through the testing that it would make a difference in the outcome of the verdict.

District Attorney Brad Shealy gave this example:

“For example, the gun and the bullets. The gun belonged to Gary Young. The evidence was in trial that he gave the gun to Cromartie. There was no evidence that the gun was unloaded when they gave it to him. So if you did DNA on the gun (that’s assuming that you find anything after 25 years). If you find Gary Young’s DNA on the gun and the bullet, it would make no difference in the case, because we know he had the gun."
District Attorney Brad Shealy

They believe a DNA test wouldn’t change anything in this case because it wasn’t Cromartie’s gun in the first place.

“If you didn’t find Cromartie’s DNA on the bullets, that would make no difference because there’s no evidence he ever loaded the gun,” said Shealy.

Prosecutors said it doesn’t mean Cromartie didn’t shoot Slysz after getting the gun from Young.

“If you don’t find fingerprints, it doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t handle it,” explained Shealy.

Shealy said sometimes fingerprints can be smudged.

But family members feel if there’s no solid proof, Cromartie should be released.

“If it shows that he is innocent, set him free,” said Anthoney.

But prosecutors said they will still push for the execution to happen.

WALB News 10′s Asia Wilson has been selected as one of the media witnesses for the execution. She will continue to follow this case and provide updates as it proceeds.

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