ATLANTA — The Supreme Court of Georgia has issued a stay in the scheduled execution of Ray Jefferson Cromartie.
Cromartie, convicted in 1997 for the 1994 slaying of convenience store clerk Richard Slysz, was scheduled to put to death by lethal injection Wednesday night at the Georgia Classification and Diagnostic Prison in Jackson.
State Supreme Court justices ruled Wednesday morning that the “pending execution order may be void” because it was filed while an appeal was pending with the state Supreme Court. Attorneys in the case have been directed to have their briefs on the matter filed by no later than Monday, November 4, at 8 a.m.
“While the Supreme Court of Georgia stayed tonight’s scheduled execution on a jurisdictional question, we remain hopeful that the courts will ensure that DNA testing is completed in Mr. Cromartie’s case before an execution is carried out," said Shawn Nolan, Cromartie's attorney and chief of the Capital Habeas unit for the Federal Defender of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. "In this case, DNA testing could prove Mr. Cromartie innocent of capital murder. The victim’s daughter has repeatedly asked Georgia state officials to conduct the DNA testing before proceeding with an execution. The public has a strong interest in allowing DNA testing because the execution of an innocent person would be the gravest miscarriage of justice.”
Cromartie’s had filed a stay of execution with the Georgia Supreme Court on October 21, but the justices denied the motion October 25. They also denied his motion for a new trial and DNA testing.
The Parole Board of Georgia turned down Cromartie’s request for stay Tuesday and also denied clemency. Cromartie and his attorneys earlier had waived their right to a clemency hearing.
Representatives for Cromartie asked the board to stay the execution to allow time for federal courts to determine whether Cromartie’s request for DNA testing of evidence in the criminal case resulting in his conviction could move forward. The board’s authority does not include issuing a stay for this purpose. The board has authority to grant a stay of up to 90 days for it to further examine information to determine whether to commute a death sentence.
Cromartie did not request a commutation of his death sentence.
Even though Cromartie did not request his sentence be commuted, the board reviewed its case file on him and all information received at the meeting and determined not to grant clemency by commuting the death sentence.
Cromartie was indicted in Thomas County Superior Court for one count of malice murder, one count of aggravated assault, one count of aggravated battery, one count of armed robbery and four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Cromartie was convicted as charged in the indictment and sentenced to death on October 1, 1997. The U.S. Supreme Court denied Cromartie’s request to appeal on December 3, 2018. The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier had denied Cromartie’s request for appeal.