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This undated photo shows the death chamber at the Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson, Georgia.
Georgia Department of Corrections/Getty Images
Georgia executes man for 1979 killing
SCOTUS denied appeals filed by Brandon Astor Jones' lawyers seeking to halt execution
February 2, 201610:10PM ETUpdated February 3, 2016 1:25AM ET
Georgia executed a 72-year-old man, its oldest death row inmate, early Wednesday for the killing of a convenience store manager during a robbery decades ago.
The state Department of Corrections says Brandon Astor Jones was pronounced dead at 12:46 a.m. Wednesday after a lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted in the shooting death of suburban Atlanta store manager Roger Tackett.
Jones was originally scheduled to receive an injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at 7 p.m. but the punishment was delayed for several hours while the U.S. Supreme Court considered late appeals from Jones' attorneys. They asked the justices to block the execution for either of two reasons: because Jones was challenging Georgia's lethal injection secrecy law or because he said his sentence was disproportionate to his crime.
About 11 p.m. Tuesday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas denied the requests for a stay, the newspaper reported. That meant Jones’ execution would go forward.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity in Georgia authorized to commute a death sentence, on Monday declined to grant Jones clemency. On Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected an appeal that claimed Jones' death sentence was disproportionate to the crime.
Also Tuesday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to give a full-court hearing to a challenge to the constitutionality of the state's execution secrecy law. The law classifies as a confidential state secret the identity of any person or entity involved in an execution, including the drug producer.
According to evidence at his trial, Jones and another man, Van Roosevelt Solomon, were arrested at the Cobb County store by a policeman who had driven a stranded motorist there to use a pay phone about 1:45 a.m. on June 17, 1979. The officer knew the store usually closed at midnight and was suspicious when he saw a car out front with the driver's door open and lights still on in the store.
Through the front window, he saw Jones stick his head out of the storeroom door at the back of the store and look around before closing the door, prosecutors have said. The officer entered the store and drew his weapon after hearing four shots.
He yelled, "Police, come on out," and approached the storeroom when no one responded. He found Jones and Solomon just inside the storeroom door and took them into custody, prosecutors have said. Tackett's body was found inside the storeroom.
Tests showed each man had recently fired a gun or handled a recently fired gun. The cash drawer had been removed and was found wrapped in a plastic bag.
Jones was convicted in October 1979 and sentenced to death. A federal judge in 1989 ordered a new sentencing hearing because jurors had improperly been allowed to bring a Bible into the deliberation room. Jones was resentenced to death in 1997.
Solomon, who was also convicted and sentenced to death, was executed in Georgia's electric chair in February 1985.