Death Penalty

A Georgia Death Row Inmate Will Be Executed Tomorrow. New Evidence Says a Different Man Was the Shooter.

A witness and co-defendant is casting doubt on the testimony that sent Ray Cromartie to death row.

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Lawyers are hoping new evidence will help the case of Georgia death row inmate Ray Cromartie, 52, just days before he is scheduled to die for the 1994 shooting death of store clerk Richard Slysz.

Cromartie will be killed tomorrow. Late Friday, lawyers filed a new motion containing a notarized affidavit (page 30) from one of Cromartie's co-defendants in the case, Thaddeus Lucas, who is also his half-brother. Lucas drove Cromartie and Corey Clark to the Junior Food Store in Thomasville the night of the robbery.

According to the affidavit, Lucas says that while he did not see what happened, he "later overheard" Clark talk about shooting Slysz in the face. Lucas says they were at a friend's apartment and Clark made the comment to one of the guests in the room.

"I have not wanted to talk about this before. I have not told anyone what Corey said about shooting the clerk because I was worried that it would ruin my life more than it already has," he said.

Lucas was convicted for his role in the crime and spent 10 years in prison because of it. He also said that he didn't believe his testimony would change the outcome of the case.

Why did Lucas choose to speak now? He said in the affidavit that reading about the case upset him because "because the story is not the truth of what really happened."

Clark ended up testifying against Cromartie on behalf of the state. It was Clark who identified Cromartie as the shooter. The affidavit filed on Friday notes that Clark had "clear motive to lie."

The affidavit also notes another person who testified against Cromarte. Carnell Cooksey was, at the time, a longtime friend of Clark and a recent acquaintance to Cromartie. Cooksey first testified that Cromartie told him he was the shooter, then changed his testimony in the state habeas proceedings, saying Cromartie didn't actually make the statement to him. (The court did not find the second testimony credible.)

Lucas is not the only one doubting the story of Cromartie being the shooter. The victim's own daughter, Elizabeth Legette, has previously asked the Georgia Supreme Court to approve DNA testing in the case as she has "serious questions about what happened the night my father was murdered and whether Ray Cromartie actually killed him."

No physical evidence ties Cromartie to the shooting. Prosecutors made their case based on Clark's testimony and low-quality security camera that showed a man with Cromartie's general description.

"No court has ever heard or considered this new evidence of Ray Cromartie's innocence," Shawn Nolan, Cromartie's lawyer, tells Reason. "It would be a horrific miscarriage of justice to execute Ray Cromartie without full consideration of all the facts in his case, including the new evidence of his innocence."

A coalition of community residents and religious leaders have signed a petition in support of DNA testing in Cromartie's case.

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  1. Cromartie will be killed tomorrow.

    Small price for the criminal justice system to pay to secure our continued trust in that institution.

  2. Wasn’t Ray Cromartie the name of the evil cyborg in The Sarah Conner Chronicles?

    1. It was just Cromartie (or Mr. Cromartie)

      I miss that show, it was the last Terminator thing I really enjoyed

  3. >>>low-quality security camera that showed a man with Cromartie’s general description.

    yeah let’s kill a man ’cause they all look alike.

    1. Why is it that we have cameras that can read a license plate from orbit but security cameras can never take a recognizable picture of a face?

      1. 99% of me doesn’t want better surveillance anything but i agree with your point

      2. Because most security cameras are cheap crap that people put up 10 years ago and never maintain.

      3. It’s not (usually) a limitation on the camera but a limitation on the resolution that gets passed to the recording device. A high-resolution tape of the last 10 minutes’ activity is great for identifying the culprit – as long as you can get to the tape before it begins to overwrite with new material. A low-resolution tape that covers the last 10 hours is a lot more likely to still have relevant content by the time you get to it.

        For most scenarios, the time to discover the crime, secure the scene, discover the existence of a recorder, track down the location and person with access to the records and finally to secure a copy of the record is measured in at least days, often weeks and sometimes months. Storing a month’s worth of video is … non-trivial.

  4. //”I have not wanted to talk about this before. I have not told anyone what Corey said about shooting the clerk because I was worried that it would ruin my life more than it already has,” he said.//

    Ah, 25 years later, and on the eve of the execution, Lucas suddenly remembers a seemingly very salient fact that he never mentioned before. Lucas, however, admits he wasn’t in the store, didn’t see the shooting, and that his sole contention is that at some point he heard Clark tell someone else at a party that he [Clark] was the shooter. There are no dates, no times, and no other corroborating facts that any of this ever happened. Like 99% of hearsay, it is inadmissible drivel.

    The standard on a Rule 60(b)(6) is proof of actual innocence. Lucas’ hand scrawled affidavit comes nowhere near proving actual innocence.

    1. Editor, this is absurdly shaky. Even for this series.

      An accomplice heard another accomplice brag to a third party about how he had shot the gun.

      This is the very definition of hearsay. NONE of these men can be trusted. The man’s brother comes up with defensive evidence suddenly to try and stop him from being executed? Even if the story is true, criminals routinely exaggerate their crimes to show how tough they are, and shooting a person is the epitome of “tough” in certain crowds. The fact that Clark was bragging about pulling the trigger means essentially nothing.

      Furthermore, even if it was 100% true, this would still mean that Cromartie is still guilty of felony murder, the crime he was convicted of.

  5. Cromartie will be killed tomorrow.

    Cromartie, convicted of felony murder, will be executed in accordance with the laws of Georgia, tomorrow.

    FTFY.

    1. Technically, he wasn’t charged with felony murder. He was found to have been the *actual* shooter and that is why he was sentenced to death.

      1. So it’s the distinction between death and LWOP?

      2. Well, his accomplice did testify against him.

        You want to know how weak this story is – he wants DNA testing on shell casings. If there were epithelial residue on those cases, wouldn’t there also be fingerprints? It would seem as likely as not there would be no conclusive result, which the anti death penalty crusaders would use as their next cudgel to oppose his execution.

        1. And the response is: “Well, clearly, the accomplice lied, obviously.” Except, of course, there is no evidence that the accomplice lied. Moreover, there was a trial, so the jury that convicted Cromartie would have been privy to the cross-examination.

          But, now, there is an incredibly sketchy, handwritten affidavit from the getaway driver stating that, at some unidentified point, at an unidentified location, under circumstances the details of which are not provided, the accomplice actually confessed to being the shooter.

          So, we are now expected NOT to believe the accomplice, but ARE expected to believe the getaway driver’s sudden recollection, twenty-five years after the fact, that the accomplice at some point after murder confessed to shooting the store clerk.

          Got it.

          1. >>>Except, of course, there is no evidence that the accomplice lied.

            there is evidence he did not lie?

            1. Corey Clark testified against Cromartie at trial. Clark testified that Cromartie was the shooter. Clark was cross-examined on his testimony. If the jury believed that Clark lied, they were free to discount his testimony and acquit Cromartie.

              There is now evidence that Clark lied. However, that evidence is in the form of inadmissible, uncorroborated hearsay. It would not have been admissible at the original trial, and it should not be considered now.

              1. Evidence of a prior inconsistent statement would have been admissible at the original trial.

                1. That is absolutely incorrect.

                  The prior inconsistent statement must be a statement made *by* the *same* person, under oath in connection with a legal proceeding, and must contradict a statement they are presently making. Somebody else saying they heard you say something inconsistent at a prior point is decidedly not a hearsay exception. It is completely inadmissible, for obvious reasons.

            2. there is evidence he did not lie?

              What sort of evidence might that be?

              1. i’m in if anyone finds out.

      3. Yeah sorry, you’re right. He was convicted of malice murder.

        Regardless, this guy gets the needle. The world will materially be a better place without him.

    2. Pretty sure that says the same thing.

  6. Is this a felony murder case?

    If (God forbid) I helped out at a robbery, and one of the other robbers killed a clerk, the felony-murder rule would declare me a murderer just as surely as the shooter.

      1. And you’re ok with that? Let’s hope you don’t ever tell me to jump off a very high bridge or tell me to ‘just pull the trigger already’ as I point the barrel at my head because that would make you responsible, correct?

        1. I am perfectly okay with it.

          The purpose of felony murder is to deter multiple individuals from engaging in felonious conduct where the risk of death or grave bodily harm is present.

          There are four justifications for criminal laws: (1) deterrence (2) retribution (3) rehabilitation and (4) incarceration.

          Those who are argue against felony murder do so from the perspective of (2), without realizing that the purpose is (1). It’s a false argument.

          (And yes, if I held a trigger to your head and told you to shoot someone, and you did, I would definitely be guilty of murder, though you would likely not be …. but that has absolutely nothing to do with felony murder)

          1. “And yes, if I held a trigger to your head and told you to shoot someone”

            Read my statement again, I mentioned nothing about you in particular holding a trigger to someone’s head and ordering that individual to commit a crime. I’m talking about Accomplice Liability Laws that are abused by putting blame on one for the actions of another.

            1. Felony Murder Rule is like birthday cake around here for some reason

              1. Without the strippers and booze

            2. Read my response again.

              You are arguing against a legal doctrine whose purpose is deterrence (“think twice about doing this dangerous thing because you will be on the hook for the acts of your compatriots”) by appealing to the unfair application of retributive punishment (“being on the hook for the acts of your compatriots does not comport with the common understanding that ‘the punishment must fit the crime.'”).

              The reason the punishment does not necessarily fit the crime, in the context of felony murder, is because felony murder is intended to deter the commission of crimes where death or serious bodily injury is likely.

              Without felony murder:

              “Me and my buddies are going to rob a liquor store; I’m cool with it, I’ll help out, because if they end up killing someone, no big deal; I’m not doing time for murder.”

              With felony murder:

              “Me and buddies are going to rob a liquor store; but, shit, I better think twice about it, because if something goes wrong and someone gets killed, that’s my ass doing time for murder. I think I’m out.”

              Again, the point of felony murder is deterrence, not retribution. People are more likely to do something stupid and dangerous if they have help and it makes sense, therefore, to deter multiple people from doing something stupid and dangerous by imposing harsher punishment than the circumstances may otherwise warrant.

              I don’t see how deterring people from participating in dangerous crimes, with compatriots, is abusing anyone.

          2. “(1) deterrence”
            This was always a phony argument.
            If it was really about deterrence then the execution would be public and bloody. Beheading a man on a guillotine rigged up in his neighborhood baseball diamond would have a deterring effect. A blurb in the New York Times saying he was executed with an injection, does not.

            Of course given police officer’s and prosecutor’s propensity for lying, a punishment that can’t be reversed or rectified is always wrong.

            1. How is it a phony argument? Punishment is a good deterrent. The threat of being in a jail cell is a good deterrent.

              And, if you’re going to crap all over the death penalty about not being “deterrent” enough, take it up with teary-eyed liberals. Firing squads, electric chairs, and hanging used to be common but were apparently too brutal …. in other words, deterred people too much.

            2. “a punishment that can’t be reversed or rectified is always wrong.”

              Who decides what ‘rectified’ means? IMO no amount of money can adequately compensate for years in a maximum security lockup.

              Everything is permanent.

  7. Prosecutors made their case based on Clark’s testimony and low-quality security camera that showed a man with Cromartie’s general description.

    In all the articles on this that Reason has put up this is the first time this is mentioned?

    That it’s on camera?

    Does Clark look enough like Cromartie that a camera could confuse them? Because all the mugshot searches I’ve done say ‘No’. But there could be a picture out there–maybe one smeared with that DNA they wanna test for, that shows the two men looking like twins enough that a camera would make it easy for one to look like the other.

    1. Yeah– and if it does look like Cromartie but not Clark, then what exactly are we saying here? That it’s a kooky coincidence that someone else shot the clerk during Cromartie’s robbery, but that it just happened to look like Cromartie? If there’s video, embed it along with mugshots of the principals.

  8. I checked, and he got his death sentence in 1997.

    Let’s review a few other things that happened in 1997:

    The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” was at the top of the charts

    Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky came to an end.

    Wi-Fi was invented.

    Chloë Grace Moretz was born – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlo%C3%AB_Grace_Moretz

    1. Correction: In the Top 10, not the very top.

  9. Executive version: all death row inmates are innocent. Remarkable, isn’t it?

  10. So on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays DNA evidence is bullshit and all forensic science is akin to astrology and palmistry.
    But, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays DNA is the pinnacle of scientific achievement in being able to determine a defendant’s guilt or innocent.
    All we ever seem to hear about is “DNA testing!” What exactly are they supposed to test? Was hair found at the scene? Did one of the criminals ejaculate at the scene of the crime? Did either of the men who robbed the store enter the store prior to this, such that their DNA might be there anyway?
    I get that you have 2 guys specifically involved in the robbery. And both are going to point to the other guy and say “He shot him!! I was just the bag man! I didn’t know he was going to shoot him!”
    One of these 2 men shot and killed the clerk. The jury seemed to find Clark’s testimony believable. And apparently the one caught on video looks more like Cromartie than it does Clark.
    If one disagrees with the death penalty on principle, fine. Argue against it. But, this is not the case to argue that an innocent man is going to die.

  11. After reading some of the history, Zuri Davis doesn’t even have all the facts, and gets some of them wrong.
    There is no video footage of the crime at the Junior Food Store where Slysz was murdered. The footage is from the shooting of a different clerk a couple days before (Dan Wilson who survived).
    Cromartie borrowed a .25 handgun the day of the first robbery, and the slugs fired in BOTH robberies matched that handgun.
    Cromartie’s fingerprint was found on the beer that they dropped when they were fleeing the store. Also a footprint in the mud matched shoes he was wearing.
    And I remind everyone that after the shooting, both men participated in the attempted theft from the register and the theft of the beer. While the clerk was bleeding out.

    1. Death penalty opponents do not do themselves or anyone else any favors pleading about a case like this one.

      1. I’ll give them a small nod on this one from the facts of the case. I’m certainly not against the idea that only the person who committed the act of murder can be found guilty of murder. I’m also inclined to reserve the death penalty for murderers. Still, the law seems to have charged him for being a willing participant and that is apparently punishable by death. This specific instance doesn’t have me sympathetic to the perp, but it certainly raises questions about the law.
        Why does Reason choose poor examples and then neglect to argue on the principle of what the law should be? The “new evidence” changes nothing here and is an obvious delay tactic. To suggest otherwise weakens credibility and the anti-dp argument

        1. ” This specific instance doesn’t have me sympathetic to the perp, but it certainly raises questions about the law.”

          Maybe. But if so then this seems a really poor example. Isn’t liberty about the ability to choose your own actions and also be responsible for them? If so then agreeing to participated in an armed effort to rob people – threatening lethal force to obtain what is not rightfully yours – would seem to make you liable when a death occurs.

          So what if you didn’t actually “pull the trigger” that seems a distinction without a difference. Like absolving a forward observer because he wasn’t actually manning the artillery piece.

          That, once a person was actually harmed, he did not in any way renege or seek to aid that person but instead carried on with the robbery just reinforces his culpability for the death.

  12. So, there seems to be no disagreement that Clark and Cromartie together committed a felony robbery and murder. Execute them both.

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  14. If you are against the death penalty, then convince people it is wrong even if the person scheduled to be executed is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

  15. What is a libertarian case against capital punishment?

    1. That ‘reasonable doubt’ is not a reasonable standard for imposing death upon someone.

      Best I got, there are plenty of other arguments against the death penalty, but none that are particularly libertarian. Mostly they are plain old pacifism.

    2. That the state shouldn’t have a monoploy on retributive violence?
      No, that’s the case FOR lynching.

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