The Stocking Strangler is coming back to Columbus.
Carlton Gary, the man convicted and condemned to death in three of the seven brutal rapes and strangulations of elderly women in the late 1970s, will be brought to Columbus from Georgia’s death-row prison in Jackson for a Feb. 1 hearing in Muscogee Superior Court.
After the Georgia Supreme Court stayed Gary’s execution by lethal injection on Dec. 16 and sent the case back to Muscogee County, that hearing was set to decide how to DNA-test evidence from the 1970s stranglings to see if it matched Gary, and to determine whether the evidence was suitable for such testing.
This week Superior Court Judge Robert Johnston added two more questions to consider – two on which Johnston himself ruled back in early December.
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According to Johnston’s latest order, they are:
-- “Whether the petitioner’s motion for DNA testing was filed for the purpose of delay.”
-- “Whether the requested DNA testing would raise a reasonable probability that the petitioner would have been acquitted if the results of the DNA testing had been available at the time of conviction, in light of all the evidence in the case.”
Johnston in early December twice ruled that Gary’s motion for DNA testing was filed for purpose of delaying his execution and that his defense team failed to show a “reasonable probability” Gary would not have been convicted had DNA test results been presented at his trial.
Gary was convicted in 1986, before such tests were used in U.S. courts.
Other issues Johnston previously said should be addressed in the hearing were “chain of custody,” meaning authorities must show the evidence securely was collected, transported and stored without being tainted; the availability of the evidence; and the expense of conducting the tests. Two other issues were determining which evidence is suitable for testing and finding a laboratory to do the work.
The hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 1, in Johnston’s courtroom on the Columbus Government Center’s 11th floor.
Now 59, Gary was arrested in 1984 and in 1986 convicted of murder in the deaths of Florence Scheible, 89, on Oct. 21, 1977; Martha Thurmond, 69, on Oct. 25, 1977; and Kathleen Woodruff, 74, on Dec. 28, 1977.