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Ga. Supreme Court upholds stay of execution

Oct. 6, 2011 at 7:24 AM   |   Comments

ATLANTA, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The Georgia Supreme Court refused to end the stay of execution for convicted killer Marcus Ray Johnson, rejecting the state's appeal on procedural grounds.

The stay is to allow for the continuance of a hearing already started about whether additional DNA testing should be performed in the case, the court said Wednesday when it announced its decision.

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

A state court judge Tuesday delayed Johnson's execution so his legal team could see whether more DNA testing could be run on available biological evidence, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

The state asked the high court to vacate the lower court's ruling. Georgia statutes don't authorize an appeal of that matter, the high court ruled.

Chief Judge Willie Lockette scheduled a Feb. 1, 2012, hearing to address Johnson's motion for more DNA testing.

"I'm extremely gratified the court has recognized there's a capital case with a question of innocence with available biological evidence that can be tested with modern DNA methods," Brian Kammer, a lawyer for Johnson, said of the high court's decision.

Ken Hodges, Dougherty County's district attorney when Johnson was convicted, said the case had substantial direct and circumstantial evidence, including Johnson's own statements and admissions.

Testimony at trial indicated Johnson met Sizemore at an Albany bar, danced and were seen leaving together, the Journal said. Johnson said they had sex in a nearby vacant lot. He said he hit her in the nose during an argument, but that she was alive when he left. In the morning, Sizemore was found stabbed to death in her vehicle parked elsewhere. Witnesses said they saw Johnson walking from the area where the vehicle was found.

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