Death Penalty

A Georgia Death Row Inmate Receives a Stay of Execution Amid Calls to DNA Test Evidence

Ray Cromartie was scheduled to die on Wednesday. His supporters hope a question of jurisdiction will lead to DNA testing.

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Georgia man Ray Jefferson Cromartie, 52, was granted a stay of execution before he was scheduled to die via lethal injection on Wednesday. Cromartie's supporters hope that this latest window of opportunity will give him another chance to prove whether or not he fired the fatal shot that killed store clerk Richard Slysz in 1994.

As previously reported, Cromartie and another man, Corey Clark, were robbing Junior Food Store in Thomasville, Georgia, when they encountered Slysz. Slysz was shot twice in the head, once under his right eye and once in his left temple. Clark later testified on behalf of the state and pinned the shooting on Cromartie. Cromartie has maintained that he did not fire the fatal shots.

Though Cromartie was previously scheduled to die on Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Georgia "provisionally granted" him a stay of execution.

The court released a statement explaining the decision to stay the execution. They are questioning whether the execution order is void because it was filed by the trial court, which may have lacked the jurisdiction to do so at the time. Lawyers have until Monday morning to argue the validity of the execution order and if the provisionally-granted stay of execution should be dismissed.

Shawn Nolan, Cromartie's lawyer, wrote that while his client's execution was stayed on jurisdictional grounds, he is "hopeful that the courts will ensure that DNA testing is completed in Mr. Cromartie's case before an execution is carried out."

"The public has a strong interest in allowing DNA testing because the execution of an innocent person would be the gravest miscarriage of justice," he added in his statement.

As I explained earlier this month, prosecutors relied on low-quality surveillance footage in a previous shooting to convict Cromartie of killing Slysz. The physical evidence that could either tie him to the murder or absolve him of it has never been DNA tested. A coalition of community residents, religious leaders, and even the victim's own family are still fighting in hopes that the state will reverse its previous denial of post-conviction DNA testing.

"I have read a lot about the case and I believe that there are serious questions about what happened the night my father was murdered and whether Ray Cromartie actually killed him," Slysz's daughter, Elizabeth Legette, wrote in a letter earlier this month.

Even if this week's jurisdictional debate were to lead to DNA testing, Cromartie faces another hurdle: According to Georgia's law of parties, Cromartie could still be held liable for the murder—even if he didn't fire the fatal shots—because he was involved in the robbery.

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  1. “After Slysz was shot, Cromartie and Clark attempted to rob the cash register. When they couldn’t access the money, they stole beer.”

    This was a line to the referenced previous article from earlier this month. Whether Cromartie or Clark actual fired the shots, BOTH were active participants in the robbery and BOTH attempted to benefit from the murder.
    I admit there are times that perhaps a low level participant to a crime legitimately had no idea that one of his crew was willing to kill someone.
    And I agree that it stinks that the government lets Clark off for turning on Cromartie.
    But, fuck both of this shitheads. Some poor clerk died because these two mother fuckers decided to rob the store. Fuck them both.

  2. Unless someone is going to argue that he wasn’t actually a willing participant in the robbery, it’s pretty much a textbook case of felony murder and he’s liable for any deaths that resulted from the robbery.

    1. Except of course that felony murder really shouldn’t be a thing.

      1. Uh, why not?
        If you participate in an armed robbery, you do so knowing full well your actions will likely result in the murder of an innocent person. If it does, what does it matter whether it was you or one of your accomplices who literally pulled the trigger?

        1. Because a person should be punished for what the person *actually did* and not for what his/her accomplice did.

          1. I can see both sides here. I know this falls under a different law, but suppose a gang boss ordered an underling to kill someone. Even though he himself didn’t commit the killing, he should still be held responsible, no?

            1. Yes. For conspiracy to commit murder. Not for murder one.

              Felony murder is just too close to “collective guilt” for me to swallow.

          2. He actually participated in a criminal action that resulted in an unlawful death.

            So, he actually did do it.

            What part of the word accomplice do you not understand?

            Do you recognize that both it and accomplish share the same root?

          3. Because a person should be punished for what the person *actually did* and not for what his/her accomplice did.

            And what about the guy who Cromartie and Clark killed FOR BEER?

            Beer. Shitty convenience store beer.

            Because they were too inept to get the register open.

        2. Aside from what Chemjeff said, in a lot of felony murder cases, the actual killer pleads out for a sweet deal while the accomplices that didn’t pull the trigger go down for murder 1 under the felony murder rule. Unjust in the extreme.

          The other problem, is that the felony murder rule is much broader than what you describe in most states. It doesn’t matter whether the underlying felony was a violent one or not.

          Unarmed thieves break into a house, where they mistakenly believed that the homeowner was away, and the home owner shoots and kills one of them. The surviving thieves go down for felony murder.

          1. A lot of them? Really? You got any links or data to back that up?

            Because otherwise I call bullshit.

            So yes, you knowingly engage in felony criminal activity where a death is a foreseeable consequence (B&E surely counts) then yeah, you are culpable

  3. Thank God.
    Maybe he is in some way liable, but you should never be executed for killing someone, if you didn’t.

    1. For once we agree.
      He should be punished, but for the actual crime he committed, not for something he didn’t do.

  4. Even if this week’s jurisdictional debate were to lead to DNA testing, Cromartie faces another hurdle: According to Georgia’s law of parties, Cromartie could still be held liable for the murder—even if he didn’t fire the fatal shots—because he was involved in the robbery.

    Another hurdle to what? Being set free? I’m certain the prosecutors in this case are pieces of shit for not wanting to DNA-test the evidence simply because it might expose their bullshit in convicting one guy on the say-so of his partner-in-crime, but he’s hardly an innocent angel. The only question here is does he deserve death rather than the 20 years or whatever the usual stint is, and assuming the DNA testing backs up his claim, the answer is “hell no”.

    Well, there are secondary questions – why are the prosecutors so dead-set against DNA testing unless they’re worried about what it might show? And if it does show that these fuckers were pushing for executing the wrong guy, should they be beaten within an inch of their lives with baseball bats or softball bats? Wood or aluminum?

    1. He’s not the “wrong guy” and DNA won’t clear him no matter the result.

      1. DNA testing is immaterial to the facts of the case.

    2. The prosecutors are so dead set because they landed a death sentence conviction. They don’t want that taken away from them or have to go through everything to get it again. They play for wins (i.e., convictions). Once they get the win (i.e., conviction), they are going to do everything in their power to not have it taken away…regardless of the facts on the ground.

  5. So I was actually thinking of this case, and our previous discussion of it, while reading the Texting Manslaughter article:

    https://reason.com/2019/10/29/student-charged-with-manslaughter-for-texting-boyfriend-to-go-die/

    So, Inyoung You: Felony murder, or no?

    1. Well, that’s a good question, actually. Let’s take it further from that case: suppose someone intended to seriously harm another, and ended up killing him. That would not be felony murder, even though it seems worse than many felony murder charges.

    2. Wouldn’t be felony murder. If I remember that case, the person killed himself. How could that be felony murder?

  6. that explaining the decision to stay the execution. They are questioning whether the execution order is void because it.
    https://mytesterblog-ah.blogspot.com/2019/10/itemlist.html

  7. Never give the state the power of execution.

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