Almost 24 hours after it finished hearing testimony in the case of condemned Stocking Strangler Carlton Gary, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles today denied his defense attorney’s push for a stay of execution to DNA-test evidence in the 1970s rapes and stranglings of elderly Columbus women.
That left Gary with two final appeals before the Georgia Supreme Court before his scheduled execution by lethal injection at 7 p.m. today at the state Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.
The parole board’s decision was announced shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday. On Monday the board heard almost seven hours of testimony before it began deliberating about 4 p.m. One kink in the deliberations was that board member Garland Hunt had been hospitalized Monday morning, and had to catch up on the proceedings by reviewing the recorded testimony.
Gary on Tuesday still had two appeals pending before the state Supreme Court: One from Muscogee Superior Court, which last week twice denied defense attorneys’ motions for a stay of execution to DNA-test evidence, and another from a similar motion that was denied in Butts County Superior Court, which has jurisdiction over the death-row prison.
Prosecutors have filed responses in opposition to those appeals, in detail arguing that judges repeatedly have considered and rejected Gary’s motions for the courts to review evidence that was not available when he was tried and convicted in 1986.
Both of Gary’s appeals seek a stay of execution. His appeal from Muscogee County is filed in criminal court, arguing that he should get a stay because evidence used to convict him was flawed and evidence casting doubt on his guilt was withheld by the prosecution.
His appeal from Butts County is a writ of habeas corpus, which makes the same argument as the Muscogee appeal, but is filed in civil court. Habeas corpus is an avenue prisoners use to challenge their incarceration, essentially asking the court to justify their imprisonment in light of the evidence and the trial record.
If the state Supreme Court rejects those appeals, Gary’s attorneys may appeal those denials to the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Nov. 30 declined for a third time to consider Gary’s case.
Arrested in 1984, Gary was convicted in three of the seven stranglings that terrorized Columbus in 1977 and ’78 – those of Florence Scheible, 89, on Oct. 21, 1977; Martha Thurmond, 69, on Oct. 25, 1977; and Kathleen Woodruff, 74, on Dec. 28, 1977.
He was implicated in other slayings to show a pattern of behavior, as the same killer is believed to have committed all seven stranglings, and to have attacked two Columbus women who survived. Investigators also have linked Gary to similar crimes in New York.