ATLANTA -- Lethal injection was to deemed a humane replacement for Georgia's electric chair. But the lethal potion used in the death chamber became problematic when the creators of the chemicals balked at providing them. Now, a convicted killer named Marcus Wellons is the new face of the argument over how to carry out Georgia's death penalty.
Instead of a three-drug cocktail, the state of Georgia wants to use one drug -- sodium pentothal -- to execute Wellons. In small doses, it is a sedative. The state wants to use a custom-maker to actually make the drug -- because the drug manufacturer that normally makes it won't sell it to conduct executions.
Monday, the state pardons and paroles board denied Wellons' motion for clemency. Monday evening, US District Judge Timothy Batten denied a defense motion to stop the execution. An appeal is expected.
"It's an experimentation process that's going on here. And they're doing it in secret," said Mike Mears, a lawyer and former mayor of Decatur who has opposed the death penalty his entire legal career. He now teaches at John Marshal Law School in Atlanta.
A new state law allows the state to keep secret who made the drug that would put Wellons to death.
"I get drugs to treat an animal, and they have to tell me more than the state of Georgia is telling us about how they're going to kill Marcus Wellons," Mears said.
Wellons sexually assaulted and murdered a 15 year old girl in 1989. State attorneys declined comment on his appeal. He is due to die Tuesday, on the gurney in Jackson -- unless his attorneys successfully challenge the secret source of the chemicals that would kill him.