After Troy Davis, More Doubt on Georgia's Death Row?
Authorities in Georgia say a man is clearly guilty of murder, but his defense hopes new evidence will cast enough doubt to prevent his execution.
On the night of September 21, Georgia executed death-row inmate Troy Davis despite lingering doubts about his guilt in the 1989 killing of an off-duty Savannah police officer. Just a few hours later, the state quietly announced that another man, Marcus Ray Johnson, would be executed on October 5. But Johnson, convicted of the brutal rape and murder of Angela Sizemore in 1994, was granted a stay Tuesday by Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette in light of newly discovered forensic evidence that has never been DNA-tested. The US Supreme Court rejected an appeal from prosecutors to overturn the stay.
According to trial records, Johnson met Sizemore at a bar on the west side of Albany, Georgia, on March 24, 1994. Johnson, angry that another woman had spurned his advances, began to chat up Sizemore, who was so drunk that the bartender refused to serve her. He handed her keys to Johnson, and the two left to hook up in a vacant lot a couple blocks away. A post-coitus argument ensued; Johnson told police that he punched Sizemore in the face, and the next thing he knew he woke up the next morning in his front yard.
That morning, Sizemore was found dead in her white van on the opposite side of town. A medical examiner determined that she had been cut and stabbed 41 times and had wounds consistent with the blade of a small knife belonging to Johnson. She had been brutally raped with a tree limb, the prosecution claimed. Blood was found on Johnson's clothing, and a handful of witnesses placed him in the area shortly before Sizemore's body was found.
That, Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards told local TV station WALB, convinced him that Johnson's "absolutely 100 percent guilty of the crime." The defense's appeal for further DNA testing (which Judge Lockette stopped short of granting), Edwards said, was just another "attempt to delay."