Fifty-nine-year-old Marcus Wellons was executed by injection Tuesday night after last-minute appeals were denied. A corrections spokesman says he was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m., more than an hour after the procedure began. The execution seemed to go smoothly with no noticeable complications.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday denied clemency and Wellons’ lawyers filed a number of legal challenges and appeals seeking to halt his execution. The state Supreme Court also rejected his appeal Tuesday evening.
A federal judge did approve a request by Wellons’ lawyers to have an anesthesiologist they selected witness the execution. Wellons’ lawyers argued that the state’s refusal to provide information about the drug made it impossible to mount a successful challenge based on the Eighth Amendment, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.
The doctor’s testimony about what he sees in Wellons’ execution could be used to support a similar challenge by another inmate, Wellons’ lawyers argue.
Among his appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court was a challenge to the secretive process used to obtain the drugs from unidentified, loosely regulated compounding pharmacies.
Georgia uses one drug for executions, whereas Oklahoma uses three. Like many other states, Georgia has had trouble obtaining execution drugs in recent years because major drugmakers, many based in Europe where opposition to capital punishment is strong, began refusing to sell their products if they were to be used in executions.
The Georgia Department of Corrections confirmed last week that it had secured the pentobarbital for Wellons’ execution from a compounding pharmacy, which custom-makes drug preparations.
Tuesday’s execution marked the first time the state used a compounded drug in an execution, though other states have done so. Georgia also used a compounding pharmacy last July to get pentobarbital for an execution that ultimately was delayed. That drug expired a month later. The state declined to identify the compounding pharmacy, citing a 2013 law that prohibits the disclosure of the identity of any entity involved in an execution.
India Roberts, a high school sophomore from Cobb County, was killed the morning of Aug. 31, 1989, after she said goodbye to her mother and left for school.
Not long afterward, a neighbor heard muffled screams from inside the nearby apartment of Gail Saunders, authorities said.
Authorities say Wellons had been dating Saunders and lived with her at her apartment near Vinings in the summer of 1989.
Later that afternoon, a man driving near a wooded area by the apartment complex called police saying he had seen a man carrying what appeared to be a body in a sheet.
Police found Roberts’ naked body in the woods with cuts on one side of her face and ear, and bruises on her neck.
Authorities later searched Saunders’ apartment and found Roberts’ notebooks and earrings. In a bedroom, they found Roberts’ underwear and blood on the mattress.
Evidence suggested Wellons forcibly brought Roberts from the kitchen to the bedroom and strangled her, authorities said. An autopsy indicated she had been raped.
A jury found Wellons guilty of rape and murder and recommended the death penalty in 1993.