Lawyer: Doubts remain about death row inmate's guilt

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Posted: Nov 17, 2015 5:24 PM
Lawyer: Doubts remain about death row inmate's guilt

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia death row inmate shouldn't be executed this week because doubts remain about his guilt, his lawyers argue.

Marcus Ray Johnson, who was convicted in the March 1994 rape and murder of Angela Sizemore in south Georgia, is set for execution Thursday at the state prison in Jackson.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence, has scheduled a clemency hearing for Johnson Wednesday.

Brian Kammer, an attorney for Johnson, has asked the board to commute Johnson's sentence or to delay his execution for 90 days to allow for additional DNA testing he argues could prove Johnson didn't kill Sizemore. Kammer is also challenging the constitutionality of Johnson's conviction and sentence and has asked a state court to halt the execution.

Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said there is no doubt about Johnson's guilt.

Sizemore and Johnson met at an Albany nightclub the night of March 23, 1994, and witnesses saw them kissing and drinking heavily. They were seen leaving the bar together early the next morning.

Sizemore's body was found the next day inside her SUV behind an apartment complex. She had been stabbed 41 times with a small, dull knife and suffered severe internal injuries when she was sexually assaulted with a pecan branch, prosecutors said.

Johnson told investigators he led Sizemore to a grassy vacant lot where they had consensual sex, and that he then "kind of lost it" and punched her in the face during an argument. But Johnson said he left immediately afterward and headed home to collapse on his front yard, where he awoke the next morning.

A judge stopped Johnson's previously scheduled execution in October 2011 to allow for new DNA testing on some evidence, but later denied Johnson's request for a new trial.

Johnson's lawyers argue the state's case was circumstantial and that police used methods that have since been discredited to obtain eyewitness statements.

No physical evidence links Johnson to Sizemore except for semen inside her and a bit of her blood on his jacket, which corroborates his story, his lawyers argue. They also say no physical evidence links him to the SUV where Sizemore's body was found or to any crime scene.

Investigators never found Sizemore's blood on Johnson's pocket knife or on the pecan branch that prosecutors said was used to sexually assault her, his lawyers argue.

More DNA testing is needed on bloody sand from the site where prosecutors say Sizemore was killed and on evidence from her SUV, Johnson's lawyers argue.

A woman who went to a funeral with Sizemore earlier in the evening testified Sizemore was involved in drug trafficking and had a large amount of cash on her that night. The money was never found and her killing could have been linked to that activity, Johnson's lawyers argue.

Edwards, the prosecutor, counters that the eyewitnesses saw Johnson in broad daylight and said he was wearing bloody clothes that were never found. The recent DNA testing doesn't prove Johnson wasn't involved and fails to implicate anyone else, Edwards said. The drug activity theory was examined and rejected during the initial investigation, Edwards said.

Johnson had been rejected earlier in the evening by a woman he had a crush on and then targeted Sizemore, Edwards said.


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