ATLANTA (CN) – Despite calls for the use of DNA testing in a two-decades-old murder case, Georgia officials announced on Wednesday that death row inmate Ray Jefferson Cromartie will be executed near the end of the month.
Cromartie was convicted of the 1994 murder of a Junior Food Store clerk in Thomasville, Georgia. According to an order signed Tuesday by Senior Judge Frank Horkan, Cromartie is set to die by lethal injection on Oct. 30.
On Wednesday, Georgia’s Attorney General Christopher Carr announced that the Georgia man will not live past the end of October. Cromartie was convicted in 1997 of murder and other charges stemming from two robbery attempts, according to court documents.
Testing of DNA found on the pistol used to kill Richard Slysz and an attack on a second victim during a 1994 robbery could reveal with more clarity who actually handled the weapon that night, Cromartie’s attorneys say.
Slysz was shot twice in the head during a robbery by Cromartie and another man, Corey Clark. Cromartie says Clark was the one who killed Slysz. Clark and another accomplice testified against Cromartie for the state.
On July 23, Attorneys Aren Adjoian and Loren Stewart filed a motion on behalf of Cromartie to order post-conviction DNA testing, but that and a 2018 request for similar testing did not impact the outcome of Cromartie’s sentence. He would still be eligible for the death penalty even if he didn’t shoot Slysz under a state statute that allows a party to a crime be convicted of that crime and subject to the same penalties.
More than 260 members of the Thomasville community including pastors, deacons, business owners and locals signed a petition in support of DNA testing.
“Morally, testing the evidence is the right thing to do.” the letter said. “We are not making a judgment about Mr. Cromartie’s guilt or innocence, but we believe there are questions about the reliability of his death sentence. Putting a man to death, without being certain that he is guilty of the crime he was convicted of committing, is not the behavior of a just Society.”
Additionally, Slysz’s daughter asked the state to conduct the forensic testing in a Sept. 16 letter.
According to the Innocence Project, DNA has been used to exonerate about 365 innocent prisoners nationwide. The organization estimates that nearly 2,100 people detained in Georgia are innocent.
Cromartie filed an appeal of the testing denial to the Georgia Supreme Court last week, which is still pending.
“All we are asking is that the State test the evidence for DNA. It did not test any of it before trial and is fighting against testing it now, over twenty years later. DNA testing will provide a reliable answer to the question of whether Mr. Cromartie was the shooter in Mr. Slysz’s tragic death,” said community attorney Shawn Nolan, who represents Cromartie, in a statement on Wednesday.
“Even the victim’s daughter has come out in favor of DNA testing. An execution cannot proceed with so much doubt and uncertainty about actual culpability. Public confidence in the justice system and the victim’s family will be served best by staying Mr. Cromartie’s scheduled execution and testing the available evidence,” Nolan added.
If carried out, Cromartie will be the third person on Georgia’s death row to be executed this year.