Johnson execution stayed with one day to spare

Published: Oct. 4, 2011 at 10:29 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2011 at 8:55 PM EDT
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Angela Sizemore
Angela Sizemore

Thirty-one hours before Ray Johnson was supposed to be put to death, a Dougherty County judge issued a stay of execution.

While Judge Willie Lockette halted Johnson's scheduled execution, he didn't immediately grant a new trial or call for more DNA testing. That's won't be decided until a hearing in February.

In 1998, Ray Johnson, a nightclub DJ, was convicted in the 1994 murder of 34-year-old Angela Sizemore. She left a bar with him and was raped and stabbed 41 times.

There was a distinct gasp from Angela Sizemore's family as Judge Lockette announced his decision to stay Johnson's execution. They declined to talk with along with one family member from Marcus Ray Johnson who was in the courtroom Tuesday.

Judge Willie Lockette's order staying Ray Johnson's execution came just after noon.

"The court has decided to grant a stay of execution in this case, the court grants this stay to allow the defendants council and the state an opportunity to examine and evaluate physical and biological evidence in this case and to render expert and professional opinions," said Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette.

Angela Sizemore's family sobbed and gripped each other tightly. Earlier in the morning defense attorneys argued new DNA technology should allow them to retest clothing that couldn't be tested before now.

"If you've got evidence that decisively excludes Mr. Johnson from items that had to have been handles by the perpetrator and you take that to a jury I think you've got a reasonable doubt there," said Brian Kammer, Johnson's Attorney.

District Attorney Greg Edwards countered claiming it doesn't exclude other evidence in the case including eyewitnesses who put Ray Johnson near the crime scene.

"This witness testified she was standing right there, that was her testimony at trial I was standing right here and Marcus Ray Johnson walked right by me," said Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards.

Or the fact that a jury found Johnson guilty using the evidence they had.

"That doesn't change that evidence that makes Marcus Ray Johnson a party to the crime, he's absolutely 100 percent guilty of the crime, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter all they want to do is attempt to delay," said Edwards.

Defense attorneys however dispute those eyewitness claims which is why they claim it's important to use improved DNA procedures and test Sizemore's clothing still held in evidence.

"Multiple witness said that he was wearing his leather chaps over his jeans, biker wear and they protect you pants or whatever, he was wearing those at Fundamentals," said Kammer.

Which dispute witness statements claiming he had on jeans. The District Attorney called it all stall tactics.

"They had two or three years by there own standards and admissions to look at this evidence, it's been either at the GBI or Albany Police Department no one is playing a shell game with them," said Edwards.

Ultimately Judge Lockette said this doesn't set Johnson free or overturn his conviction, it just gives the defense and prosecution time to see if this evidence can be tested.

Judge Willie Lockette scheduled another hearing for February 1, 2012 to determine whether he'll allow DNA testing or a new trial.

Greg Edwards appealed Tuesday's ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court and expects a decision from Justices Wednesday morning. The Board of Pardons has yet to make their ruling on the clemency hearing held Monday.

 Note: Raw video from the hearing can be viewed at the right of this text. Part One is over 20 minutes long, and may not have processed at the time you are reading this story. Please check back later.

Copyright 2011 WALB.  All rights reserved.