Brandon Astor Jones, 72, was executed in Georgia early Wednesday for the 1979 murder of a convenience store manager, Fox 5 Atlanta reported. Jones was the state's oldest death row inmate, having spent nearly 37 years on death row.
Two requests for a stay of execution were pending Tuesday late into the evening before the U.S. Supreme Court denied them both. No justices publicly noted their disagreement with the decision not to halt the execution.
The Georgia Supreme Court earlier Tuesday denied a stay of execution for Jones in a 5-to-2 vote. His lawyers had asked the court on Monday to vacate his sentence, arguing that it was "excessive and disproportionate" for a murder that occurred "during the attempted armed robbery of a retail establishment." The lawyers wrote that even at the time of Jones' original sentencing in 1979, a death sentence for his crime was "an anomaly" in Georgia and since then a death sentence for such a murder had "fallen into complete extinction."
“A death penalty has not been imposed in Georgia for a murder committed during an armed robbery in the last 20 years," the filing said. The court denied his request.
In federal court, after a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Jones' appeal challenging the constitutionality of the state's execution secrecy law that keeps the identity of the manufacturer of lethal injection drugs confidential, the full appeals court on Tuesday declined — on a 6-5 vote — to have the full appeals court re-hear the appeal.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles — the sole authority to commute or reduce a death sentence — denied Jones' clemency request on Monday.
On June 16, 1979, Roger Tackett, the manager of a convenience store in Cobb County, remained at the store late into the night to complete paperwork, according to court documents. About 1:45 a.m., a police officer, who had driven a stranded motorist to the store's parking lot to use a pay phone, saw Tackett's car parked outside and all the lights on inside the store. The officer, who found this suspicious, saw Jones stick his head out of a door of the storeroom. When the officer entered the front of the store he heard several shots ring out. As he approached the storeroom door, he saw Jones and co-defendant Van Roosevelt Solomon standing inside and arrested them. Tackett was found dead at the scene, having been shot five times, according to an autopsy. Both Jones and Solomon were convicted of "malice murder" and sentenced to death.
Jones' original death sentence was vacated due to a trial court error in allowing a Bible in the jury deliberation room. He was re-sentenced to death in 1997.
Solomon was electrocuted in February 1985 — the 38th person to be executed in the U.S. since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Jones' execution, which took place at 12:46 a.m. Wednesday, made him the oldest person to be executed in Georgia.
The U.S. Supreme Court's orders in Jones' case:
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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Chris Geidner is a Supreme Court correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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