Georgia set to execute man for 1978 rape and murder

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 23, 2011 9:58 AM
Georgia set to execute man for 1978 rape and murder

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia is scheduled on Thursday night to execute by lethal injection a man convicted of the rape and murder of a 78-year-old Savannah woman.

Roy Blankenship, 55, was convicted of the 1978 murder of Sarah Mims Bowen, who died of heart failure after she was raped and beaten in her apartment.

It will be the state's first execution using a new sedative, pentobarbital, in place of sodium thiopental.

In March, agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency seized Georgia's supply of sodium thiopental, which attorneys for several death row inmates said Georgia had improperly imported from England.

Hospira Inc. of Illinois, the only U.S. company that manufactured sodium thiopental, said in January it would stop making the drug after Italy, where it planned to move production, objected because the European Union has banned the death penalty.

Several states have either run out of supplies of sodium thiopental or switched to pentobarbital, a barbiturate often used to euthanize animals.

Blankenship has not requested a last meal and will be offered the prison's normal menu of chicken and rice, peas, carrots, collard greens, corn bread, a brownie and iced tea, the Georgia Department of Corrections said.

Georgia has executed 49 men since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. If executed, Blankenship will be the 27th inmate put to death by lethal injection in Georgia, which has 101 men and one woman on death row.

(Reporting by David Beasley; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jerry Norton)