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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Update: Death-row inmate Marcus Wellons executed following last-minute delays, emergency appeals

Georgia death-row inmate Marcus A. Wellons has been killed in the nation's first execution conducted since a botched lethal injection in Oklahoma two months ago.

The Georgia Department of Corrections declared that Wellons had died at 11:56 p.m. late Tuesday night at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson, Ga., located nearly 50 miles southeast of Atlanta.

DOC officials had originally scheduled the 59-year-old prisoner's execution for 7 p.m. last night. But minutes before his scheduled death, Wellons' attorneys Gerald King and Mary Elizabeth Wells filed several requests for a stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a stay of execution given the "troubling and substantial constitutional issues" surrounding the case. Georgia officials had also submitted paperwork requesting that the court rule against the inmate's petitions.

More than three hours later, Wellons' lawyers informed news outlets that the U.S. Supreme Court denied the inmate's stay request. Without the court's intervention, Georgia's corrections department proceeded with his execution - the first to take place in the country since Oklahoma prison officials bungled the lethal injection of death-row inmate Clayton Lockett on April 29.

DOC officials lethally injected Wellons using pentobarbital that was obtained from a compounding pharmacy. His execution marked Georgia's first state-authorized killing since a law passed in 2013 that allowed the state's corrections department to keep secret the identity of its drug suppliers.

In 1993, Wellons was found guilty of raping and murdering of India Roberts, a 15-year-old high school sophomore who lived near his girlfriend's home in Cobb County, 25 years ago.

Wellons tried to appeal the execution through several different legal avenues. But his lawyers' efforts ultimately fell short. He was denied clemency on Monday. The Supreme Court of Georgia yesterday denied both a stay of execution and a motion to intervene in the appeal of death-row inmate Warren Lee Hill.

"He's believing that God is going to intervene and that's the hope that we all have," Dwight Wellons, his youngest brother, told NBC News yesterday.

Less than an hour before his scheduled death, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied an emergency appeal that attempted to challenge Georgia's controversial lethal injection secrecy law. His lawyers argued that the state's failure to provide that information about his execution drugs violated Wellons' Eighth Amendment rights to avoid cruel and usual punishment. Charles Wilson, one of the courts judges, expressed his "serious concerns" about the secrecy law following Lockett's mishandled death.

"Appellees refuse to disclose the provenance - and true nature - of the substance with which they will inject Mr. Wellons to end his life," King and Wells wrote. "Nor will they confirm the qualifications of the personnel whom they have delegated to carry out his execution, including those who will place the catheters into his veins."

Following his death, media witnesses told reporters that nothing appeared to have went wrong with Wellons' execution aside from one guard fainting. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Adam Ragusea reported that lethal injection observers said the procedure took a longer than expected and noticed Wellons twitch one time.

Two other death-row inmates, John Winfield in Missouri and John Ruthell Henry in Florida, are scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.

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