Ga. high court declines to block condemned man’s execution

    The state Board of Pardons and Paroles says it is reviewing potential clemency releases for nonviolent offenders to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Contributed by the Georgia Department of Corrections.

    The state’s highest court has rejected a condemned man’s plea to halt his new execution date, which is now set for next Wednesday.

    On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court unanimously denied 52-year-old Ray Jefferson Cromartie’s request to halt his execution, which was originally scheduled for last week until the same court intervened because of a procedural misstep by a lower court.

    The state Supreme Court also denied Cromartie’s request to appeal a Butts County Superior Court judge’s decision to dismiss claims that his trial lawyers had been ineffective.

    Cromartie’s attorneys continue to push, though, for more time for DNA testing on clothing and other evidence that they say could prove his innocence. That action is still pending in the federal courts.

    The state Board of Pardons and Paroles, typically one of the last hopes for inmates on death row, has already decided not to commute Cromartie’s sentence.

    Cromartie has maintained his innocence, saying he is not the person who shot Richard Slysz at a south Georgia convenience story in 1994 where Slysz worked.

    Slysz was shot in the head twice during a robbery at the Junior Food Store in Thomasville. Three days earlier, another store clerk was shot in the face at another convenience in town but survived, and witnesses named Cromartie as the gunman in both shootings.

    Slysz’s daughter, Elizabeth Legette, has asked the courts to allow the DNA testing. In a July letter, Legette urged the state’s Supreme Court to allow the testing since questions hovering over the case “could be answered by DNA testing.”

    Jill Nolin
    Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.