Georgia, Missouri carry out executions
ST. LOUIS — A Georgia inmate convicted of rape and murder was executed Tuesday night in the nation’s first capital punishment since a botched execution in April raised new concerns about lethal injection.
Marcus Wellons, 59, received a lethal injection late Tuesday at a prison in Jackson after last-minute appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court were denied. A corrections official said he was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Eastern time. The execution seemed to go smoothly with no noticeable complications.
Wellons’ execution came about an hour before that of inmate John Winfield in Bonne Terre, Mo. A third execution is scheduled for tonight in Florida.
Nine executions nationwide have been stayed or postponed since late April, when Oklahoma prison officials halted the execution of Clayton Lockett after noting that the lethal injection drugs weren’t being administered into his vein properly. Lockett’s punishment was halted and he died of a heart attack several minutes later.
“I think after Clayton Lockett’s execution everyone is going to be watching very closely,” Fordham University School of Law professor Deborah Denno, a death penalty expert, said of this week’s executions. “The scrutiny is going to be even closer.”
Wellons was lying still with his eyes closed while the drugs were administered. A few minutes into the procedure, Wellons took a couple of heavy breaths and blew air out through his lips as if snoring, but by about five minutes in, there was no visible movement.
It wasn’t immediately clear exactly when the drugs administered, but typically it is within a minute or two after the warden leaves the room. The warden left the room at 11:32 p.m., 24 minutes before Wellons was pronounced dead.
Winfield, who was convicted of killing two women, was executed by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. and was pronounced dead at 12:10 a.m. Central time, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Public Safety said. The U.S. Supreme Court had also refused late Tuesday to halt his execution, and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon denied clemency.
Winfield, 46, took four or five deep breaths as the drug was injected, puffed his cheeks twice and then fell silent, all in a matter of a few seconds.
All three states refuse to say where they get their drugs, or if they are tested. Lawyers for two of the condemned inmates have challenged the secretive process used by some states to obtain lethal injection drugs from unidentified, loosely regulated compounding pharmacies.
Georgia and Missouri both use the single drug pentobarbital, a sedative. Florida uses a three-drug combination of midazolam hydrochloride, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride.
Despite concerns about the drugs and how they are obtained, death penalty supporters say all three convicted killers are getting what they deserve.
Wellons was convicted in the 1989 rape and murder of India Roberts, his 15-year-old neighbor in suburban Atlanta. Before the execution began, Wellons said he hoped his death could give Roberts’ family peace.
In Missouri, Winfield had been dating Carmelita Donald on and off for several years and fathered two of her children. Donald began dating another man. One night in 1996, in a jealous rage, Winfield showed up outside Donald’s apartment in St. Louis County and confronted her, along with two friends of hers.
Winfield shot all three women in the head. Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy died. Donald survived but was blinded.
Winfield declined to make a statement.