U.S. Supreme Court okays execution of Georgia's oldest death row inmate

JACKSON, Ga. — The U.S. Supreme Court turned down last-minute appeals from lawyers for Georgia's oldest death row inmate Tuesday night, allowing the execution of the 72-year-old man to go forward.

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Brandon Astor Jones was originally scheduled to receive an injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted in the 1979 shooting of a suburban Atlanta convenience store manager, Roger Tackett.

In late Tuesday filings to the court, the lawyers asked the justices to block Jones' planned execution for either of two reasons: He is challenging Georgia's lethal injection secrecy law and also because he says his death sentence is disproportionate to his crime.

About 11 p.m., Justice Clarence Thomas denied the requests for a stay.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity in Georgia authorized to commute a death sentence, on Monday declined to grant Jones clemency. On Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected an appeal that claimed Jones' death sentence was disproportionate to the crime.

Also Tuesday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to give a full-court hearing to a challenge to the constitutionality of the state's execution secrecy law. The law classifies as a confidential state secret the identity of any person or entity involved in an execution, including the drug producer.

According to evidence at his trial, Jones and another man, Van Roosevelt Solomon, were arrested at the Cobb County store by a policeman who had driven a stranded motorist there to use a pay phone about 1:45 a.m. on June 17, 1979. The officer knew the store usually closed at midnight and was suspicious when he saw a car out front with the driver's door open and lights still on in the store.

Through the front window, he saw Jones stick his head out of the storeroom door at the back of the store and look around before closing the door, prosecutors have said. The officer entered the store and drew his weapon after hearing four shots.

He yelled, "Police, come on out," and approached the storeroom when no one responded. He found Jones and Solomon just inside the storeroom door and took them into custody, prosecutors have said. Tackett's body was found inside the storeroom.

Tests showed each man had recently fired a gun or handled a recently fired gun. The cash drawer had been removed and was found wrapped in a plastic bag.

Jones was convicted in October 1979 and sentenced to death. A federal judge in 1989 ordered a new sentencing hearing because jurors had improperly been allowed to bring a Bible into the deliberation room. Jones was resentenced to death in 1997.

Solomon, who was also convicted and sentenced to death, was executed in Georgia's electric chair in February 1985.


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