The US state of Georgia has killed an elderly prisoner by lethal injection just days shy of his 73rd birthday. The African American man had spent more than 36 years in prison for a 1979 killing of a store clerk.
Brandon Astor Jones died by lethal injection at 12:46 a.m. Wednesday at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, this year's fifth execution in the United States.
His attorneys had launched last-minute appeals to halt the execution, including an appeal to the US Supreme Court, but they were rejected, clearing the way for his execution.
He was convicted four decades ago for the robbery and killing of a 35-year-old convenience store clerk Roger Tackett. His co-defendant Van Roosevelt Solomon was also sentenced to death and died in the electric chair in 1985.
After police heard gunfire, Jones is said to have told a police officer on the scene: "There is a man in the back - hurt bad," court records showed.
Police found the badly wounded clerk in a locked storeroom. The man later died of his injuries.
Two men executed over 1979 killing
Critics say many death row inmates were sentenced to death at a time when they lacked a competent legal defense and questioned the rationale of executing two men over one murder.
"Jones's case raises questions of proportionality and discriminatory application of the death penalty," the Death Penalty Information Center said in a statement. "Jones denies shooting the clerk and prosecutors never determined who fired the fatal shot."
His advocates pointed out that during the decades he spent locked up, he read widely and became known for his writings on prison life and race issues.
But the Georgia Supreme Court and the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected his petition to commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
Georgia's male death row population stands at 75. The state suspended executions for several months last year in response to a controversy over the EU's embargo on barbiturate pentobarbital and other deadly cocktails used in lethal injections.
Nationwide, the US put to death 28 people in 2015, the lowest number since 1991.
jar/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)