ATLANTA — The state of Georgia on Tuesday executed a man for the murder and rape of a teenager 25 years ago, bringing the nationwide debate over the drugs used in executions back into the spotlight.
Marcus Wellons, 59, was convicted of raping and murdering 15-year-old India Roberts on Aug. 31, 1989, in Cobb County. Wellons was convinced in June 1993 and subsequently sentenced to death.
Opponents of the death penalty oppose laws that keep secret the suppliers of the drugs used in lethal injections. Georgia and other states have passed laws in recent years keeping secret the information about companies that supply the drugs.
Wellons’ execution was the nation’s first since April 29 when an Oklahoma inmate died following a heart attacked during a prolonged execution.
Earlier on Tuesday, Wellons’ attorneys sought to intervene in the case of a fellow death row inmate, Warren Lee Hill. But, the Georgia Supreme Court denied the request, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit also denied a request to stay the execution.
“I have serious concerns about the Defendants’ need to keep information relating to the procurement and nature of lethal injection protocol concealed from him, the public, and this court, especially given the recent much publicized botched execution in Oklahoma.” U.S. Circuit Judge Charles Wilson wrote in an opinion. “Unless judges have information about the specific nature of a method of execution, we cannot fulfill our constitutional role of determining whether a state’s method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment before it becomes too late.”
A Fulton County Superior Court Judge last summer granted Hill a stay of execution to review the constitutionality of the Georgia law keeping secret the suppliers of execution drugs. However, the judge reversed the stay on May 19.
On Monday, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied a clemency request for Wellons. An execution date for Hill, whose attorneys have also claimed he is not mentally fit to be executed, has not been set.