Gainesville man to plead for clemency on eve of execution

Scotty Garnell Morrow of Gainesville, Ga., is scheduled for execution by lethal injection on Thursday, May 2, 2019, for murdering two women in December 1994, one of them his ex-girlfriend.

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Scotty Garnell Morrow of Gainesville, Ga., is scheduled for execution by lethal injection on Thursday, May 2, 2019, for murdering two women in December 1994, one of them his ex-girlfriend.

Lawyers for Scotty Morrow, in their final efforts to save the life of the Gainesville man scheduled for execution on Thursday, will ask the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to consider their client’s conduct before and after the gruesome double murder he admits to committing.

“In the days before and in the days since December 1994, Mr. Morrow has conducted himself with kindness, respect, humility and loving affection for those around him,” Morrow’s clemency petition states. “As this Board will soon learn, the final weeks of his relationship with Barbara Ann Young, and the devastation he caused on December 29, 1994, are so vastly out of character for Mr. Morrow that both he and those who know him have struggled in disbelief to understand how he could have committed such a crime.”

On that day, according to court testimony, Young had informed Morrow, her ex-boyfriend, over the phone that she would not take him back.

Morrow said something “snapped” inside him. Armed with a handgun, Morrow drove to his ex-girlfriend’s Hall County home, where he shot Young and her friend, Tonya Woods, in the face, killing both. A third woman, LaToya Horne, was shot in the face and arm but survived.

Morrow takes full responsibility for the murders in his petition, attributing them to “his love for Ms. Young and her family, and his inability to rescue their relationship.”

“Mr. Morrow’s only aspiration was to be a family man: He worked hard to be a good son, brother, father, uncle and friend,” the petition states.

Morrow has two sons and four grandchildren.

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A loving family was something Morrow never experienced growing up in New York. His federal defenders, Jill Benton and Nathan Potek, said Morrow, as a toddler, witnessed his father beating his mother. At 7, he was raped repeatedly by a family member, and later brutalized by his mother’s boyfriend, his lawyers said.

The Hall County jury that sentenced Morrow to death in 1999 never heard about those childhood traumas. In 2011, a state court judge overturned Morrow’s sentence, ruling that he had not been adequately represented by his lawyers. The judge ordered a new trial, but the Georgia Supreme Court later reversed that decision and reinstated the death sentence.

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Morrow’s latest appeal was rejected in 2018 in federal court. But Judge Charles Wilson, in a concurring opinion, said he was troubled by the failure of Morrow’s attorneys to present evidence that might mitigate arguments to impose a death sentence. Specifically, jurors were never told that Morrow had been raped repeatedly while growing up, Wilson said.

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider Morrow’s case, exhausting his federal appeals.

Now his life is in the hands of the state. Following the hearing Wednesday morning, the parole board may commute the sentence, issue a stay of up to 90 days, or deny clemency.

Several testimonials on Morrow's behalf are included in the petition. Georgia Department of Corrections Special Agent Nathan Adkerson said, "I can truly say out of everyone out there that Scotty Morrow is literally the only inmate who I would do this for. And I've been in law enforcement for almost 16 years."

“There is no doubt that Mr. Morrow’s actions in the moments that followed were horrific and cruel,” his clemency petition states. “But there is likewise no doubt that they were fueled by immense pain. In Georgia, such crimes — spontaneous and hot-blooded — rarely result in a sentence of death, but rather nearly always receive a sentence of life or life without parole.”

Morrow would be the first person executed in Georgia this year and the 50th put to death in the state by lethal injection.