The US Supreme Court on Wednesday denied both applications for a stay of execution for Georgia death row in mate Ray Jefferson Cromartie. He was set to be executed by lethal injection at 7:00 PM on Wendesday but was delayed while the applications were considered; he was executed at 10:59 PM.
Cromartie consistently maintained his innocence. His lawyers asked the court to test DNA evidence on shell casings from the shooting to prove his innocence.
Cromartie was sentenced to death for the 1994 murder of Richard Slysz at a convenience store in Thomasville, Georgia. Testimony from the trial showed that Cromartie and two others set out to rob this convenience store after having shot a clerk in another convenience store robbery days earlier. Cromartie shot Slysz in the head twice. After failing to open the cash register, Cromartie and his associate stole two 12 packs of beer. The trial showed that he had bragged to others that he had shot the clerks.
He was convicted in large part because of the testimony of his accomplices. One of them, Thaddeus Lucas, recently came forward and swore in an affidavit that Cromartie did not shoot the clerk but another accomplice, Corey Clark, did. Cromartie’s first appeal is based on this evidence. A lower court ruled that the evidence could not come in now because Cromartie, through his previous counsel, was not diligent in obtaining the evidence. He asked the Supreme Court to consider whether evidence gathered by subsequent diligent counsel should be considered new and admissible. A circuit split currently exists on the issue of whether evidence demonstrating needs to be newly discovered or just not presented at trial.
Included in the application to the Supreme Court were letters from Slysz’s daughter asking the district attorney and the Supreme Court of Georgia to consider the DNA evidence. She wrote, “My father’s death was senseless. Executing another man would also be senseless, especially if he may not have shot my father.”
Cromartie’s other appeal to the Supreme Court alleged violations of his First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The state argued that the DNA evidence could not prove Cromartie’s innocence, citing “overwhelming evidence of his guilt,” and that he failed to bring an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.