A Fulton County judge has stopped the Thursday execution of a Savannah murderer, but it could be just a temporary delay.
Judge Wendy Shoob, after a day-long court session on Tuesday, ruled the state could not carry out the lethal injection of Roy Willard Blankenship as scheduled. She wanted time to review evidence and testimony she heard concerning a new drug that will be part of the three-drug cocktail Georgia uses to carry out lethal injections.
While the execution was put on hold, it could still be held Thursday if Shoob completes her review and rules against Blankenship. The execution warrant is in effect until noon on June 30, which means the lethal injection can be conducted any time between this Thursday and the following Thursday.
Blankenship was sentenced to death for killing Sarah Mims Bowen, 78, in Savannah. Blankenship broke into her house, and beat and sexually assaulted her. Savannah police found Blankenship by following his footprints to his apartment a block away.
Georgia's decision to replace the first drug used in executions with a new sedative, barbituate pentobarbital is at issue. The company that produced the original sedative, sodium thiopental, said it was getting out of the business, forcing Georgia and other states to find an alternative.
If Blankenship's execution is carried out this week, his will be the first in Georgia using the new drug.
Blakenship's lawyers argued pentobarbital might not provide enough sedation to prevent excruciating pain when it and the new drug are administered together. They said that would violate Blankenship's constitutional protection from cruel and unusual treatment. The defense attorneys said pentobarbital is untested and unreliable.