Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The state of Georgia granted clemency to a death row inmate hours before he was to be executed by lethal injection, officials said.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles decided on Thursday to commute the death sentence of Jimmy Fletcher Meders to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the board's chair Terry Barnard said in a press release.
The board said it decided to commute his sentence following a meeting Wednesday, during which it reviewed Meders' clemency application and all of the facts surrounding the case, including the jury that convicted him for the 1987 murder of Don Anderson wanting to sentence him to life without parole, which was not available at the time.
Meders was sentenced to death on April 7, 1989, for fatally shooting Anderson, a convenience store employee, during a robbery following a night of drinking with friends.
On Dec. 30, the Superior Court of Glynn County filed an order setting the seven-day period starting Jan. 16 during which Meders was to be executed. The Georgia Department of Corrections then scheduled his execution for 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The board said it granted clemency after considering he had no criminal record prior to his offense, had only one minor infraction in his over 30 years on death row, the jury's "explicit desire" during trial deliberations to sentence him to life in prison and that every living juror continued to hold this opinion.
In his clemency application, Meders' defense said their client takes responsibility for Anderson's death but his case is an example of why the state instituted the sentence of life without parole.
"Meders' crime was tragic and senseless, but it did not fall into the narrow category of highly aggravated crimes for which justice requires the death penalty. To the contrary: It shows precisely why the legislature authorized life without parole," it read.
Seventy-four men and one woman have been executed in Georgia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Meders was to be the 53rd inmate to die by lethal injection, the state said.