Digging Deeper: GA's Death Row

Published: Oct. 3, 2011 at 9:53 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2011 at 8:56 PM EDT
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Currently, 96 men and one woman sit on Georgia's death row waiting to be executed. That number could be reduced by one this week.

Marcus Ray Johnson is scheduled to die Wednesday night for an Albany murder. In 1994 he brutally raped and murdered 34-year old Angela Sizemore,  stabbing her more than 40 times.

Georgia's death row is located at the Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison in Jackson, about 45 minutes south of Atlanta.  Dougherty County Superior Court Senior Judge Loring Gary who visited as a young prosecutor describes it as a solemn place.

"It's all very secure and quiet, very solemn. There's no communication between the prisoners other than by some contrived means, some of them use mirrors, by virtue of the mirrors are able to play chess with each other."

Right now there are 96 men and one woman on Georgia's Death Row. Digging deeper, we found six of them are from south Georgia, they are Ray Cromartie of Thomas County, Warren Hill of Lee County, Marcus Johnson of Dougherty County, Ashley Jones of Coffee County, Roger Loyd of Crisp and Nelson Earl Mitchell of Early County.

Nearly all convicted in the 90's, but typically an appeals process can take 15 years.

"You have a line of appeals through the state appellate court system, starting with the Supreme Court and you have a direct appeal and then you have a collateral appeals in the nature of habeas corpus rules, then you have the right to bring the same action on appeal in the federal courts," said Judge Gray.

Under Georgia law there are three offenses punishable by death, murder, rape, and kidnapping, but it's the mitigating circumstances that make the biggest difference.

"The key to the whole thing is, no matter what the charge is against you, that you have to meet one of the statutory aggravated circumstances. They're set fourth in the death penalty statute, and there are a number of specifics such as murder for money, murder during the commission of another capital felony, murder involving kidnapping."

In Georgia we learned inmates range in age from 20 to 69. There are 28 between the ages of 30 and 39, 32 inmates between the ages of 40 and 49 and 27 between the ages of 50 and 59 and they don't get much free time.

Judge Gray said, "The prisoners there are locked down 23 hours a day. They're allowed into a common area for an hour, and otherwise they're not allowed any contact with anyone else."

52 men have been executed in Georgia since the U. S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973. If executed, Johnson will be 30th inmate put to death by lethal injection.

The Parole Board is the sole agency in Georgia for granting clemency to inmates. The Board can grant clemency and commute a death sentence to life without parole or life with the possibility of parole or deny clemency, or issue a stay to further consider the case.

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