Georgia executes man for store clerk’s killing in 1994

JACKSON, GEORGIA (AP) – A man convicted of killing a Georgia convenience store clerk 25 years ago was put to death late on Wednesday night, United States (US) authorities said.

Inmate Ray Jefferson Cromartie, 52, was pronounced dead at 10.59pm on Wednesday after an injection of pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson. He made no last statement.

Cromartie was convicted and sentenced to die for the April 1994, slaying of Richard Slysz at a convenience store in Thomasville, near the Georgia-Florida line.

The state said Cromartie also had shot and gravely wounded another convenience store clerk days before the killing.

Wednesday’s execution came shortly after the US Supreme Court, without explanation, rejected two appeals by the inmate’s attorneys.

Cromartie took a number of deep breaths while looking at the ceiling before closing his eyes and going still about five minutes after the drugs began flowing, at one point forming his mouth into an “O” and exhaling heavily.

Strapped and taped down to a gurney, Cromartie moved little if at all. A news media witness said Cromartie didn’t struggle and said nothing while being strapped down to a gurney.

Cromartie had insisted through his attorneys that he didn’t shoot either clerk.

The defence lawyers had also recently asked state and federal courts to allow DNA testing of evidence collected from the shootings that they said could prove he wasn’t the shooter.

Lawyer Shawn Nolan called the denial of DNA tests “so sad and frankly outrageous” in a statement after the execution.

“In this day and age, where DNA testing is routine, it is shocking that Georgia decided to end this man’s life without allowing us, his attorneys, access to the materials to do these simple tests,” Nolan said.

The state countered that the DNA evidence being sought couldn’t prove his innocence.

Evidence at trial showed Cromartie borrowed a handgun from his cousin April 7, 1994, entered the Madison Street Deli that night and shot clerk Dan Wilson in the face, seriously injuring him.

Wilson couldn’t describe his attacker and surveillance camera footage wasn’t clear enough to conclusively identify the shooter.