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Execution for Georgia man Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., who killed woman, temporarily stayed

ATLANTA — A choose on Monday temporarily delayed the execution of a Georgia man who was scheduled to die Tuesday for killing an 8-year-old woman 46 years in the past.

Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., 68, killed the woman and raped her 10-year-old good friend after abducting them as they walked dwelling from college in Cobb County, simply outdoors Atlanta, on May 4, 1976. He was scheduled to die by injection of the sedative pentobarbital on the state jail in Jackson at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Ruling from the bench on the finish of a listening to that lasted greater than eight hours Monday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shermela Williams issued an order temporarily prohibiting the state from continuing with the execution Tuesday. She was ruling in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Presnell’s attorneys that alleged that by setting an execution date the state violated an settlement that successfully put executions on maintain throughout the coronavirus pandemic and established situations underneath which they might resume.

Lawyers for the state indicated they might attraction the choose’s ruling so the execution might proceed as deliberate.

Earlier Monday, the State Board Board of Pardons and Paroles, the one authority in Georgia that may commute a dying sentence, had declined to halt Presnell’s execution.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Federal Defender Program, which represents Presnell, alleges the settlement mentioned that, with one named exception, executions wouldn’t resume till six months after three situations had been met: the expiration of the state’s COVID-19 judicial emergency, the resumption of regular visitation at state prisons and the provision of a COVID vaccine “to all members of the public.”

The judicial emergency led to June, however prisons are nonetheless utilizing a modified visitation coverage and youngsters underneath 5 nonetheless can’t entry the vaccine, Mike Caplan, a lawyer representing the Federal Defender Program, argued in court docket.

Jonathan Loegel, a lawyer for the state, argued that the settlement wasn’t a binding contract and likewise mentioned the state “substantially complied” with its phrases. He mentioned that visitation has “resumed in our new normal” and that the vaccine has been extensively out there for a year.

The settlement mentioned that when the situations had been met, the state meant to hunt an execution date for Billy Raulerson, who was sentenced to dying for the May 1993 killings of three folks in south Georgia, and that Raulerson’s attorneys could be given a minimum of three months discover after the situations had been met, the lawsuit says. The lawyer normal’s office mentioned it wouldn’t search the execution of anybody else coated by the settlement till a minimum of six months after the situations had been met, the lawsuit says.

In late April, the lawyer normal’s office knowledgeable Raulerson’s lawyer that the state meant to schedule Raulerson’s execution for May 17, the lawsuit says. After Raulerson’s lawyer reminded a state lawyer that she had agreed to not schedule the execution throughout his beforehand scheduled trip, the state lawyer instructed him Raulerson’s execution wouldn’t be scheduled till August on the earliest.

Just a few days later, on April 25, the state lawyer notified Presnell’s lawyer, Monet Brewerton-Palmer, that the state meant to hunt an execution warrant for him, the lawsuit says. The warrant was issued April 27.

Contrary to the settlement, the lawyer normal gave Brewerton-Palmer simply two days of discover that they meant to set his execution date, the lawsuit says. That left her with inadequate time to organize for his clemency listening to Monday, the lawsuit says.

The clemency listening to lasted solely an hour Monday morning and Brewerton-Palmer didn’t name any witnesses or consultants to testify or submit the handfuls of witnesses she would in any other case have supplied, Caplan mentioned.

“This is often the best hope that a death sentence prisoner has of not being executed,” Caplan mentioned. “Her case this morning for clemency was completely gutted.”

In a clemency application submitted to the parole board, Brewerton-Palmer had argued that he’s “profoundly brain damaged” and didn’t perceive the hurt he was inflicting the 2 women. But due to COVID restrictions on visitation and journey and an knowledgeable witness who lately suffered a coronary heart drawback, she wasn’t in a position to provide testimony to assist that.

Brewerton-Palmer had been engaged on Presnell’s case, however it “was not on her radar as an emergency” due to the settlement, Caplan argued. He urged the choose to delay the execution to offer Brewerton-Palmer time to finish her investigation and put together correctly for a brand new clemency listening to.

It is within the public’s curiosity to make sure that guarantees made by the state are saved and to keep away from any notion that Presnell could be executed prematurely when his lawyer was unprepared to current a clemency case, Caplan mentioned.

Loegel argued that the state has an curiosity in guaranteeing the immediate and well timed administration of justice and delaying the execution would stop that. Brewerton-Palmer has identified since final fall that Presnell had exhausted his appeals and due to this fact had enough time to organize, he argued.

Williams mentioned it was clear to her that the emailed settlement was meant to be binding on the events. The Federal Defender Program was prevented by COVID-related causes from getting ready as it will have and relied on the settlement, she mentioned.

It’s clear that Presnell, whom she allowed to intervene within the go well with, stood to endure irreparable hurt if the execution wasn’t delayed, the choose mentioned: “We can’t come back from death.”

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