A Cobb County man convicted of raping and strangling a 15-year-old neighbor girl is sentenced to be executed Tuesday, the first execution in the country since a controversial Oklahoma execution last month where the inmate died of a heart attack during the process.
Marcus A. Wellons is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. June 17 for the rape and murder of India Roberts, according to the Georgia Attorney General’s office. His appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in October.
According to the Georgia Supreme Court, Wellons was convicted in 1993 in the August 1989 death of his neighbor, Roberts, a high school sophomore. Wellons had spent the night before the murder in a rage, the court said, after his girlfriend left their apartment as his behavior became increasingly abusive.
The next morning Roberts said good-bye to her mother as she left their apartment to walk to a school bus stop. A neighbor heard muffled screams from Wellons’ apartment and that afternoon a witness saw him carrying a body partially wrapped in a sheet – later found to be Roberts -- into some woods near the apartments, the court said.
Her naked body was found under some branches with cuts on one side of her face and ear and bruises on her neck. The autopsy showed Roberts died from manual strangulation, and that Wellons had attempted to strangle the victim with a telephone cord.
If Wellons’ execution is carried out Tuesday, he will be the first inmate put to death in the U.S. since Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett died after his April 29 execution was halted when prison officials noted the lethal injection drugs — a combination of midazolam, vercuronium bromide and potassium chloride — weren't being administered properly, says WSB Radio. The doctor inside the death chamber reported a single IV in Lockett's groin became dislodged and the lethal drugs went into his tissue or leaked out of his body.
Problems with Drugs Used in Executions
Oklahoma was using a new three-drug method for the first time following a shortage of pentobarbital, and Lockett writhed on the gurney, gritted his teeth and attempted to lift his head several times before the state's prison director halted the execution. He died within about 45 minutes from a heart attack.
Overseas makers of pentobarbital have stopped selling the drug in the United States if it is intended for use in an execution, reports ThinkProgress.org, and the result has states searching for replacement drugs.
The Georgia Department of Corrections told WSB it has secured the pentobarbital for Wellons' execution from a compounding pharmacy, which will custom-make the drug. This execution will be the first time the state has used compounded pentobarbital in an execution.
Jurors in Wellons’ Case Sent Erotic Gag Gifts to Judge
During the appeal of Wellons’ conviction, the issue of erotic gag gifts given to the trial judge and bailiff were raised with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Jurors gave penis- and breast-shaped chocolates to Cobb Superior Court Judge Mary Staley and a bailiff. The appeals court ultimately called the gifts “tasteless and inappropriate” but said they played no part in the judge’s or jury’s decisions, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, and Wellons’ bid for a new trial was denied.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Staley should have admonished the jurors with a role in the gag gifts and should have told prosecutors and Wellons’ lawyers about the incidents so they could have objected at the time they happened, the newspaper said.
Juror Mary Jo Hooper previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that during the trial she ordered a box of chocolates from a friend’s candy shop to give to fellow jurors and court employees. The friend included a penis-shaped chocolate as a joke; after a bailiff said the judge wanted to see it, Hooper turned it over to Staley once the trial ended.
An unidentified juror sent breast-shaped chocolates to the bailiff after the trial, the newspaper said.