Georgia executed its oldest death row inmate early Wednesday morning, moving ahead with the scheduled lethal injection after courts and a state pardon board rejected his requests for stays.
Brandon Astor Jones, 72, was first sentenced to death in 1979 for the death of Roger Tackett, who managed a convenience store.
Attorneys for Jones had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to step in, filing two stay requests. On Thursday evening, more than four hours after the 7 p.m. scheduled start time for the execution had come and gone, the justices rejected both requests without any recorded dissents.
Jones was executed at 12:46 a.m. early Wednesday morning, state corrections officials said. He took a final prayer and recorded a statement, they said.
He was sentenced to death after being charged in Tackett’s death more than three decades ago. A Cobb County police officer had said that he saw Jones close the door to a room in the back of the convenience store and, not long after, heard four gunshots, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case. The officer said he went into the room and found Jones and another man, Van Roosevelt Solomon. A short time later, authorities found Tackett’s body; he had been shot five times, and two revolvers were found.
Jones was initially convicted and sentenced to death, but a district court vacated that sentence because a Bible was allowed in the jury deliberation room. A resentencing trial in 1997 ended with Jones again sentenced to death.
Solomon, a former Baptist preacher, was executed in 1985 using Georgia’s electric chair. (The state did not pivot fully to lethal injection until 2001.) Three decades later, Jones was still fighting his second death sentence, and last October, the U.S. Supreme Court denied his appeal request.
The U.S Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Monday denied Jones’s stay request, with a three-judge panel dismissing his argument that it is unconstitutional for Georgia to keep secret details about the source of its lethal injection drugs.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday also rejected Jones’s request to stay his execution and scrap his death sentence. In Georgia, only the parole board is allowed to commute a death sentence or change it to life in prison or life without parole.
On Tuesday, his attorneys filed last-ditch appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, but those were rejected late in the evening.
Jones declined to ask for a specific last meal, state officials said, and so was given what is known as the institutional tray (which includes chicken and rice, rutabagas, seasoned turnip greens and cornbread).
This execution is the first in Georgia this year and the fifth nationwide so far in 2016. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, Georgia is among the leading capital punishment states, with only Texas, Oklahoma, Virginia, Florida and Missouri executing more inmates over that span.
States have been carrying out fewer executions in recent years, with lethal injections and death sentences both significantly down from peaks in the 1990s. The states that are attempting to put inmates to death are struggling to obtain lethal injection drugs amid a shortage, creating a fractured system and leading some states to revisit older execution methods.
Jones was one of 76 men on death row in Georgia, a number that now falls to 75. Last year, the state executed Kelly Gissendaner, the only woman on its death row and the first woman executed by Georgia since World War II.
That execution, one of five in the state last year, was postponed twice. Gissendaner’s first scheduled lethal injection was called off due to a winter storm, while the second was delayed and eventually canceled because corrections officials said the lethal injection drugs appeared “cloudy.” State officials halted all executions while they studied these drugs and later said it appeared the drugs were just cold.
Jones’s lethal injection had been originally scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, about 45 minutes south of Atlanta.
This story, originally published Tuesday, has been updated in the wake of the execution.