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Ray Cromartie executed for 1994 murder of South Georgia store clerk

Joshua Sharpe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA -- Ray "Jeff" Cromartie is dead, executed at 10:59 p.m. eastern for the 1994 murder of South Georgia convenience store clerk Richard Slysz.

Cromartie's death by lethal injection became imminent once the U.S. Supreme Court denied his request for a stay of execution shortly after 10 p.m. Cromartie appealed to the Supreme Court Wednesday evening after the federal appeals court in Atlanta rejected his request for a stay late Wednesday afternoon.

The 52-year-old was set to receive a lethal injection of pentobarbitol at 7 p.m. But while Georgia schedules executions for that hour, the state does not proceed until all courts have weighed in, which puts the actual time of death well into the night.

Cromartie died amid uncertainty and contention.

He has always insisted he was not the person who pulled the trigger in the 1994 South Georgia convenience store robbery and murder that sent him to death row.

Two days before Cromartie's scheduled execution, one of his co-defendants, Thad Lucas, released an affidavit saying he'd overheard their other co-defendant, Corey Clark, confess to being the shooter.

 

Lucas, who was the getaway driver in the robbery in Thomasville, did not mention Clark's alleged confession at trial or in a recent interview. Lucas said in the affidavit that he originally didn't think telling the truth would do any good. State officials argued his statement changes nothing, because Lucas acknowledges he didn't see the shooting and, thus, can't know who killed 50-year-old Richard Slysz.

And the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in its ruling rejecting Cromartie's request for a stay, disagreed with Cromartie's lawyers' contention that Lucas' recent statement shows their client is innocent of malice murder and his case should be reopened.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit noted that just three days before Slysz was fatally shot in the head, Cromartie committed an almost identical crime against another store clerk in the same town.

There was also testimony at trial that Cromartie picked out which store to rob in the Slysz killing. Given this, the court said, Cromartie has failed to present new evidence that's so strong that reviewing judges cannot have confidence in the outcome of the trial.

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