May 17, 2017
By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) – Georgia executed a convicted robber and murderer by lethal injection early on Wednesday after U.S. courts rejected his appeal to be killed by a firing squad.
J.W. Ledford had spent about a quarter of a century on death row after he was found guilty of cutting the throat of a 73-year-old doctor during a robbery in 1992.
His lawyers had argued he wanted to be executed by firing squad because a drug he took for nerve pain would lead to an “excruciating death” under Georgia’s lethal injection protocol.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday denied Ledford’s appeal after lawyers for Georgia called it a delaying tactic that should be rejected for relying on speculative allegations.
Ledford’s attorneys had said that years of taking a drug for nerve pain changed his brain chemistry, which meant the state’s lethal drug, pentobarbital, would not reliably render him unconscious and insensate. They said its use would violate constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
But the three-judge panel ruled: “The Georgia legislature is free, within the parameters established by the United States Constitution, to choose the method of execution it deems appropriate.”
The Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request from Ledford’s lawyers to halt the execution. The U.S. Supreme Court also denied Ledford’s stay on Tuesday.
Ledford did not accept a final prayer and recorded a final statement, the Georgia Department of Corrections said in a statement.
He was pronounced dead at 1:17 a.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, the office of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement.
The last inmate executed by firing squad in the United States was Ronnie Gardner, who was put to death in Utah in 2010, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Ledford was 20 when he attacked Harry Johnston in northern Murray County, a court synopsis of the case said.
Ledford is the 11th person in the United States executed this year and the 70th in Georgia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
(Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Heavens)
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