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High Court denies Georgia man request for stay of execution

ATLANTA -- A Georgia man scheduled to be executed Tuesday evening for the 1992 killing of a friend of his mother saw his late request for a stay denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brian Keith Terrell, 47, was initially scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson, though four hours elapsed before the nation's highest court disclosed it had a rejected a defense request to stay the planned execution. In a brief statement released in Washington, the Supreme Court gave no explanation for its decision.

Terrell was convicted in the June 1992 killing of John Watson in Covington, a community about 35 miles east of Atlanta.

Defense lawyers have said previously that Terrell is innocent, that no physical evidence connects him to the crime and prosecutors used false and misleading testimony to get the conviction. State lawyers say courts already have heard and rejected the defense arguments.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday had denied Terrell's request for clemency. He filed appeals Tuesday after state and federal courts rejected his challenges.

Prosecutors said Terrell was on parole when he stole and forged checks belonging to Watson, who reported the theft but asked police not to pursue charges if Terrell returned most of the money. On the day Terrell was to return the money, he had his cousin drive him to Watson's house, where he shot the 70-year-old man several times and severely beat him, lawyers for the state have said.

Terrell's cousin, Jermaine Johnson, was his co-defendant and had been in jail for more than a year facing the possibility of the death penalty when he agreed to a deal with prosecutors to testify against Terrell. Johnson was allowed to plead guilty to a robbery charge, receiving a five-year prison sentence.

A defense investigator wrote in a sworn statement that Johnson told her and defense attorney Gerald King that he was 18 and facing the death penalty and was pressured by police and the prosecutor to testify against his cousin. He said he'd like to give a sworn statement telling the truth but is afraid he might be arrested and put in prison for perjury if he does, Goodwill wrote.

Prosecutors also misleadingly presented the testimony of a neighbor of Watson's, incorrectly asserting that she said she saw Terrell at the scene, Terrell's lawyers wrote.

Terrell's arguments have already been reviewed and rejected by courts, state lawyers argue.

A state court on Tuesday dismissed the complaint in which Terrell claimed innocence, and the state Supreme Court also declined to halt the execution.

Terrell earlier filed a court challenge saying the state cannot ensure the safety or efficacy of the drug it plans to use to execute him. The 11th U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday declined to halt the execution after a federal court on Tuesday rejected that challenge.

Terrell was previously set for execution on March 10. But after Department of Corrections officials discovered solid chunks had formed in the drug that was to be used in the execution of Kelly Gissendaner on March 2, they temporarily suspended all executions to allow time for an analysis of the compounded pentobarbital.

The state has said that most likely cause for the precipitation in the drug was because it was shipped and stored at a temperature that was too cold. The state has taken precautions to prevent that from happening again and would not proceed with an execution if a problem with the drug was discovered, state lawyers have said.

Gissendaner was executed Sept. 30 and another inmate, Marcus Ray Johnson, was executed Nov. 19.

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