Crime

Georgia Executes 76-Year-Old Death Row Inmate

| by Robert Fowler
Lethal injection chamberLethal injection chamber

Brandon Astor Jones, the state of Georgia’s oldest death row inmate at 72 years old, was executed on Feb. 3. His lawyers’ appeals to block punishment were denied by both the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jones was convicted in the June 17, 1979 shooting murder of Atlanta store manager Roger Tackett.

At around 1:45 a.m. that day, a policeman on the scene heard shots inside of the store and investigated, finding Jones and his accomplice, Van Roosevelt Solomon, with the establishment’s cash drawer wrapped inside a plastic bag, the New York Daily News reports. Tackett was discovered in a pool of his own blood inside of a storeroom.

Tackett had stayed at work late to catch up on paperwork so that he would be free to attend Father’s Day Mass with his family the next morning, the Atlanta Journal Constitution notes. He was survived by his wife and daughter.

Forensics confirmed that both Jones and Solomon had discharged their guns that night, according to the Daily News. Both were sentenced to death, Solomon meeting his end by electric chair in February 1985.

A federal judge granted Jones a new trial in 1989 after it was discovered that his original jury had improperly consulted a Bible while deliberating his case. In 1997, he was again sentenced to death.

Jones’ lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to grant Jones clemency, providing two arguments. The first was that the death sentence was too harsh a punishment for Jones' crime. The second was in regards to Georgia's lethal injection secrecy law. According to Jones, this law -- which ensures that the information of anyone involved in an execution remains classified -- makes it difficult to know if the lethal drugs cause unnecessary pain or not. Thus it would be impossible to guarantee that the lethal injection would not violate Jones' constitutional right against cruel and usual punishment.

The Supreme Court, however, denied Jones' requests for stay on Feb. 2.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta had also denied Jones’ request for stay, with a close 5-4 vote.

One dissenting voice, Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum, wrote that “[Jones] will be executed, possibly in violation of the Constitution," according to the Daily News.

" [...] He may also be cruelly and unusually punished in the process," Rosenbaum added. "But if he is, we will not know until it’s too late — if ever.”

Jones’ last meal consisted of chicken, fruit punch and bread pudding, the Atlanta Journal Constitution notes. He was pronounced dead at 12:46 a.m.

While Jones drew his last breaths, 15 personal supporters and death-penalty opponents huddled a mile away, praying for him.

The next Georgia death row inmate set to be administered the lethal injection will be Travis Clinton Hittson. He is scheduled for execution on Feb. 17, according to NBC News.

Sources: Atlanta Journal Constitution, NBC News, New York Daily News / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Ben Gray/AJC

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