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Georgia judge halts execution of man convicted of killing 8-year-old girl

By Ashley Williams
Georgia judge halts execution of man convicted of killing 8-year-old girl
Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. was sentenced to death in 1976 for the kidnapping of two Cobb County, Ga. girls, aged 8 and 10, leaving Russell Elementary School that May. Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Corrections

May 17 (UPI) -- Less than a day before a lethal injection was set to happen, a Georgia judge granted an injunction pausing the execution of Virgil Delano Presnell Jr., a man convicted of killing an 8-year-old girl.

The hold came after Federal Defender Program attorneys argued that the state's decision to execute Presnell Jr. violated a post-pandemic execution postponement agreement with the attorney general's office that applied to most scheduled executions.

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Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shermela Williams accepted the argument and pushed back Presnell Jr.'s death date.

"This is not a parking ticket case, this is a death penalty case," Williams said, as reported by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

Before the injunction was granted, following a nine-hour emergency hearing, Presnell Jr., 68, was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday evening at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Ga.

Hours before the injunction, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles had denied Presnell Jr.'s clemency petition.

Presnell Jr. was sentenced to death in 1976 for the kidnapping of two Cobb County, Ga. girls, aged 8 and 10, leaving Russell Elementary School that May.

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The man was accused of raping the older child and drowning the 8-year-old in a nearby creek just outside of Atlanta as she tried to escape.

Presnell Jr.'s first sentence was overturned in 1992, but he was once again sentenced to death in 1999.

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