Georgia prepares to carry out its first execution this year

J.W. Ledford (Georgia Department of Corrections)

ATLANTA (WATE/AP) — Georgia is preparing to execute its first inmate this year, a man convicted of killing a 73-year-old neighbor.

J.W. Ledford Jr. is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday at a state prison in Jackson. The 45-year-old inmate was convicted of murder in the January 1992 stabbing death of Dr. Harry Johnston near his home in Murray County, northwest Georgia.

Ledford told police he stabbed Johnston during an argument and then hid Johnston’s body and robbed Johnston’s wife at knifepoint.

Ledford’s attorneys have argued that execution by Georgia’s lethal injection drug would likely to cause the inmate extreme pain in violation of his constitutional rights. He has used the drug gabepentin for more than a decade to treat chronic nerve pain, according to his attorneys. Because the drug has been linked to dulling the effects of pentobarbital, however, they argue lethal injection may amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

In documents filed by his lawyer in U.S. District Court, Ledford claims the drug has changed his brain chemistry so much, the lethal injection drug pentobarbital might not render him unconscious, causing him “to suffer an excruciating death.”

“Mr. Ledford proposes that the firing squad is a readily implemented and more reliable alternative method of execution that would eliminate the risks posed to him by lethal injection,” his lawyers said.

His attorneys have suggested using a firing squad instead, but that’s not allowed under Georgia law.  The Georgia attorney general’s office said there was no proof a firing squad would be less painful and contended there was “no substantial risk” he would suffer severe pain in a Georgia execution by lethal injection.

“Plaintiff has waited until the eve of his execution to suddenly claim that he has been treated for pain with medication that will allegedly interfere with his execution,” the state’s lawyers wrote. “If plaintiff really thought the firing squad was a reasonable alternative he could have alerted the State years, instead of 5 days, before his execution.”

Last meal

The Department of Corrections released Ledford’s requested menu.

For his last meal, Ledford wanted filet mignon wrapped in bacon with pepper Jack cheese, large French fries, 10 chicken tenders with sauce, a fried pork chop, bloomin’ onion, pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, sherbet and a Sprite.

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