Georgia carries out first execution since botched Oklahoma injection

An undated photo of Marcus Wellons. (Georgia Department of Law Enforcement via AP)

Marcus Wellons was executed in Georgia late Tuesday night, the first execution in the United States since a high-profile botched execution in Oklahoma. He was the 21st person executed in the country this year.

Wellons was sentenced to death for raping and murdering India Roberts, 15, in 1989. He was found guilty and sentenced in 1993. He had been scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Tuesday at 7 p.m., but a flurry of legal activity delayed the execution for several hours.

A federal judge and the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles had both declined his requests for clemency. Attorneys for Wellons filed an appeal to the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon, arguing that the state’s refusal to reveal details about the drug that will be used in the injection as well as information about the people who will carry it out means attorneys and the courts can’t determine whether the execution will violate the Eighth Amendment.

That appeal was denied, though one of the judges wrote in a concurring judgment that the state’s secrecy was “disturbing.”

Following that, the Georgia Supreme Court denied a motion for a stay of execution. Wellons’s attorneys filed a motion for a stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court, but that was denied shortly after 10:30 p.m.

In denying Wellons’s appeals, the Supreme Court removed the last legal barriers between Wellons and lethal injection. The appeals were denied by the full court with no recorded dissent. You can read the brief denials herehere and here. In Georgia, a state board — rather than the governor — is responsible for granting clemency, and that board denied clemency for Wellons on Monday.

Wellons was executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, located about 45 minutes south of Atlanta. His execution was first reported by Alan Blinder of the New York Times.

None of the media witnesses reported seeing anything unusual, other than a guard fainting. While an official initially told reporters that the execution took more than an hour, witnesses said later that it didn’t take nearly that long.

His execution was followed a little more than an hour later by the execution of John Winfield in Missouri, who was similarly killed by lethal injection after numerous court actions and the Supreme Court ultimately declining to stay his execution.

Wellons declined to request a special final meal, so his last meal was the prison’s usual tray of shepherd’s pie and various side dishes, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Georgia used to carry out lethal injections using a three-drug combination, but the state changed its execution protocol in July 2012. Now executions are carried out using only the drug pentobarbital, which had previously been one of the three drugs Georgia used in executions.

Wellons became the 54th person executed in Georgia since 1976. He was the first person executed in the state this year and the first executed in Ohio since Feb. 21, 2013.

In addition, Wellons is the first person executed in the U.S. since Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29. During Lockett’s lethal injection, witnesses said he was grimacing, writhing and visibly in pain. The execution was called off, but he still died a short time later and the episode became worldwide news.

Wellons’s execution is the first of several scheduled for a 24-hour period. Head here for more on the first executions occurring since the botch in Oklahoma as well as details about what happened in the wake of that incident.

RELATED: Everything you need to know about executions in the United States

 

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Mark Berman | June 17