JACKSON, Ga. – A man convicted of killing his neighbour during a burglary in 1996 on Tuesday became the fourth person put to death in Georgia this year.
Kenneth Fults was executed by injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson. Warden Bruce Chatman told witnesses the time of death was 7:37 p.m.
The 47-year-old inmate had pleaded guilty to killing 19-year-old Cathy Bounds during what prosecutors have described as a weeklong crime spree in January 1996. A jury in 1997 sentenced him to death.
Fults declined to make a final statement but did agree to have a prayer read over him.
The warden left the execution chamber at 7:18 p.m. Records from past executions have shown that the lethal drug generally begins to flow within minutes of the warden leaving the room, but that is not visible to news media witnesses.
Fults lifted his head and looked to the right twice. He shook his head at 7:20 p.m. and then took several deep breaths, blowing air out through his lips visibly as his body shuddered several times. He then yawned, took several more deep breaths and became still.
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The State Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday declined to grant clemency for Fults. The board did not give a reason for its denial, which is customary.
His attorneys had also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the execution to consider arguments that a juror who had imposed the sentence was motivated by racial bias. A statement from the court Tuesday afternoon said the request was denied but it didn’t give a reason.
Prosecutors have said Fults killed Bounds during a weeklong crime spree that began when he stole two guns during burglaries. After trying unsuccessfully to kill his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend with one of the stolen guns, Fults broke into the trailer next to his, where Bounds lived with her boyfriend.
Bounds, who was home alone, pleaded for her life and offered him the rings on her fingers, but Fults forced her into the bedroom, wrapped electrical tape around her head, put her face-down on the bed, put a pillow over her head and shot her five times in the back of the head, prosecutors had said.
Fults’ lawyers said in a clemency petition that their client had an extremely tough childhood characterized by abuse and neglect and an intellectual disability that keeps him from behaving appropriately.
“Mr. Fults, the man, committed a terrible, tragic act when he killed Cathy Bounds,” they wrote. “But before the man existed, there was an innocent, vulnerable child in his place. And that child, Kenny, fell through the cracks.”
They also pointed out what they said were flaws in his sentencing trial, including a juror they said was motivated by racial bias and a defence attorney who fell asleep and failed to provide jurors with adequate information.
In their filing with the Supreme Court, Fults’ lawyers argued his death sentence was unconstitutional because one of the jurors who imposed it was motivated by racial prejudice.
During jury selection for Fults’ trial in 1997, juror Thomas Buffington, who was white, told the judge and lawyers on both sides that he felt no racial prejudice.
An investigator working with Fults’ lawyers eight years later spoke to Buffington about his jury service. Buffington, who was 79 at the time of the interview and has since died, twice used a racial slur when talking about Fults, who is black.
“Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what that (N-word) deserved,” Buffington said, according to the signed, April 12, 2005, affidavit in the court record.
On Tuesday, Fults had visits with 17 relatives, a friend, an attorney and two paralegals, officials said.
Another Georgia inmate, Daniel Lucas, is scheduled to be executed April 27.