Georgia to carry out 1,500th U.S. execution since capital punishment reinstated


(Reuters) – Georgia is scheduled on Thursday to carry out the 1,500th execution in the United States since 1976, the year capital punishment was legally reinstated, when it puts to death a man convicted of killing an off-duty prison guard in 1996.

Marion Wilson, 42, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. EDT at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

Wilson would be the 1,500th inmate executed in the country since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, four years after declaring existing death penalty statutes unconstitutional, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The first person executed after reinstatement of the death penalty was convicted killer Gary Gilmore, who died by firing squad in Utah in 1977 after requesting execution. Since then, Texas leads all states in executions, with more than 560.

Wilson was convicted in 1997 of murdering Donovan Parks southeast of Atlanta and sentenced to death, according to court records.

On March 28, 1996, Parks went into a Wal-Mart in Milledgeville to purchase cat food, leaving his 1992 Acura Vigor parked in the fire lane in front of the store, state prosecutors said.

After Parks left the store, Wilson and an accomplice, Robert Butts Jr., carjacked him. Wilson pulled the victim by his tie out of the car and onto the pavement and Butts shot him in the head, the records said.

The two tried to sell the car at a shop in Atlanta that strips down vehicles, but were turned down. Afterward, they set fire to the car, court records said.

Butts was put to death in 2018 for the murder.

Wilson has filed several unsuccessful appeals with various courts since he was convicted. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Wilson’s request to appeal.

As of Wednesday, Wilson had a clemency petition pending with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Wilson’s attorneys asked the board to intervene, arguing he was not the trigger man and that prosecutors exaggerated his juvenile record and gang affiliation in order to get the death penalty, the petition showed.

Wilson would be the 10th inmate to be executed in the United States in 2019 and the second in Georgia, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Peter Cooney

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