Georgia is slated to carry out its first death sentence of the year Tuesday evening after the state Parole Board and a federal appeals court each rejected last minute bids to spare convicted murderer J.W. Ledford Jr.
Ledford, 45, is slated to be killed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Tuesday after two separate attempts for reprieve and a rare legal bid to die by firing squad were rejected Monday on the eve of his execution.
Attorneys for the condemned claim their client’s long-term exposure to gabapentin, a drug used to treat chronic pain, has likely caused Ledford to develop a tolerance to the barbiturate used carrying out state-sanctioned death sentences, pentobarbital, and asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday for a stay of execution.
A three-judge appellate panel rejected Ledford’s request late Monday, effectively dismissing his concerns as too little, too late: Ledford’s attorneys failed to prove their client’s gabapentin use will complicate the execution and raised their concerns well beyond their window of opportunity, according to the 11th Circuit.
“The factual allegations in Ledford’s complaint and the supporting evidence do not establish that it is sure or very likely that Ledford will suffer serious injury or needless suffering during his execution,” the appeals court decided.
“For the above reasons, in addition to being time-barred, Ledford’s complaint fails to state a plausible claim for relief,” the 11th Circuit added. “Because Ledford has not shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of his challenge to the lethal injection protocol, the motion for a stay is denied.”
Ledford was sentenced to death after being convicted or murdering his former neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston Jr., in 1992. As noted by the appeals court, however, his attorneys didn’t object to the method of execution until recently — more than a decade after the statute of limitations had expired.
Ledford’s attorneys had asked a District Court judge last week to allow their client to be killed by firing squad in lieu of lethal injection and filed a notice of intent to appeal in the 11th Circuit on Friday after their initial request was rejected.
“We also agree with the district court that Ledford has not alleged sufficient facts to render it plausible that a firing squad is a feasible and readily implemented method of execution in Georgia that would significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain,” the federal appeals panel agreed in Monday’s ruling.
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