ATLANTA - A Georgia death row inmate's lawyers plan to launch a final bid to spare his life just hours before his execution scheduled for tonight.
Samuel David Crowe's lawyer, Ann Fort, was scheduled to plead his case to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles this morning. He is scheduled to die at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson, 45 miles south of Atlanta.
If the execution takes place, Crowe will become the second Georgia inmate to die in less than three weeks. Georgia's May 6 execution of William Earl Lynd ended a seven-month halt on executions before the U.S. Supreme Court in April upheld the constitutionality of the most common method of lethal injection.
Mississippi was moving forward Wednesday night with the nation's second execution since that ruling.
Crowe was sentenced to die after pleading guilty to robbing and killing 39-year-old Joseph Pala in 1988 at the Douglas County lumber store where Crowe used to work. Prosecutors said Crowe was desperate for cash to pay overdue bills.
The medical examiner found that the store manager was shot, beaten with a crowbar and struck with a can of paint that came open and spilled white paint on his face.
In a 25-page filing with the parole board, Fort said Crowe had stopped using cocaine that night and was in severe withdrawal.
Crowe, now 48, has been rehabilitated, she said, and has constantly tried to atone for the brutal murder.
She asked the board to commute Crowe's death sentence and provided a box of testimonials from his supporters, including friends, pastors, an ex-teacher and even a former corrections officer.
Jack Bedsole, a retired corrections officer at Crowe's prison, called him 'a peacemaker' among the inmates.
'He was the only person I dealt with on death row in 16 years who I felt like if they released him that morning he would never get in any more trouble and he could make a contribution to society,' Bedsole said in a letter.
Crowe is not allowed to attend the hearing but expressed his remorse in a letter.
'What I did to Joseph Pala is not something that I have ever been able to forget, or push back into the recesses of my mind,' Crowe said.
Douglas County District Attorney David McDade said he still remembers the gruesome scene as well.
'He horribly, tragically, brutally murdered a man whose family has suffered to this day,' McDade said. 'That he feels remorse today doesn't diminish what he did to Mr. Pala with one iota.'
Crowe's lawyers have also asked the Georgia Supreme Court for a stay of execution and is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if the Georgia justices deny his appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Crowe's last appeal in April.