Johnson gets stay of execution

Marcus Ray Johnson

2nd Update

From the press release of the Georgia Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court of Georgia today refused to vacate the stay of execution granted yesterday to Marcus Ray Johnson by Chief Judge Willie Lockette of the Dougherty County Superior Court. In a unanimous vote, the high court dismissed the State's appeal on procedural grounds.

District Attorney Gregory Edwards filed an emergency motion this morning, asking the state Supreme Court to vacate the judge's order granting the stay. But the stay was essentially a continuance of a hearing related to whether there should be additional DNA testing in Johnson's case. Georgia statutes do not authorize an appeal of that matter, the high court has ruled.

As a result, the lower court's stay of execution remains in place. Judge Lockette has ordered a hearing for Feb. 1, 2012 to further address Johnson's motion for additional DNA testing.

Johnson, 46, was scheduled to die tonight by lethal injection at 7:00 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the March 24, 1994 murder of Angela Sizemore in Albany.

The Associated Press is reporting that Dougherty County prosecutors are asking the Georgia Supreme Court to allow the Marcus Ray Johnson execution to go forward. They say the judge who halted today's scheduled execution overstepped his limits.

Initial Story
Marcus Ray Johnson was set be executed by lethal injection Wednesday night. But that execution has been put off, at least for now.

Dougherty County Judge Willie Lockett granted a stay of the execution a hearing with Johnson's defense and prosecutors.

At the center of the case are demands for new D.N.A. testing that his defense is hoping will clear Johnson's name.

"The testing that is available now was simply unavailable at the time of Mr. Johnson's trial," said Johnson's defense attorney Brian Kammer. "It is more than appropriate to take the opportunity now to resolve through new DNA testing methods some questions that could really shed light on whether Mr. Johnson is in fact guilty of this crime."

Johnson was convicted for the 1994 rape and murder of Angela Sizemore.

"There is overwhelming evidence that he did it. By eyewitness testimony, by the physical evidence that connects him directly to the victim, by his own admissions," said Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards.

This ruling doesn't mean Marcus Ray Johnson is innocent, it doesn't even mean he'll get a new trial. But for now it means he'll have more time.

"The court will conduct a further hearing on this matter, which has been set for February 1, 2012 at 9 a.m.," said Judge Lockette.

That's four months from now at which time the judge will decide whether or not to allow the new D.N.A. test.

But Edwards will try to appeal the judge's ruling and make Wednesday's execution carry on.

"Even if there is somebody's D.N.A. on anything else that does not remove all of the other evidence that is presented in this case," said Edwards.

"I think that it behooves us to employ these new methods to try to resolve some of these questions about the case before putting Mr. Johnson to death," said Kammer.