Carlton Gary was convicted of killing three elderly women in Columbus, Ga. by strangling them with stockings. Photo: Georgia Department of Corrections
Photo: Georgia Department of Corrections
Photo: Georgia Department of Corrections

Hours before execution, Georgia serial killer sought new lawyer

With his execution imminent, Georgia’s “Stocking Strangler” asked the court for a new lawyer.

Carlton Gary filed two handwritten legal appeals Thursday morning with the U.S. District Court in Columbus saying his attorney, Jack Martin, has cancer. He said Martin’s failing health may have prevented the lawyer from mounting a vigorous campaign to spare his life and asked for the court to halt his execution. 

Martin, who spent Wednesday arguing for clemency for Gary, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was unaware of Thursday morning’s filing. 

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Gary received the death sentence in 1986 for raping three elderly women in Columbus, and then strangling them with their own stockings. The crimes were committed in 1977 and 1978. He has also been linked to multiple other rapes and murders in Columbus and upstate New York.

Gary’s lawyers have maintained that new DNA and other forensic evidence casts doubt on his guilt.

Atlanta Lawyer Jack Martin (BILL RANKIN/BRANKIN@AJC.COM) The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In the filing, Gary wrote he was “recently notified that his lead counsel, Mr. Martin, has been diagnosed with cancer, thus depriving him of his health in ways known and in ways unknown.”

“The petitioner (Gary) does not know how long Mr. Martin has been stricken, or to what degree that may have affected his representation,” the filing continued. 

On Wednesday, Martin spent three hours with the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, seeking clemency for Gary. The appeal was denied.

Also in recent days, Martin filed numerous legal appeals and conducted several media interviews in which he insisted that Gary, 67, was not the “Stocking Strangler.” 

Gary was executed by lethal injection Thursday night at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson.

He was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m.

His initial appointed hour of execution — 7 p.m. — came and went while the appeals process played out.  

While he waited, Gary declined to eat his final meal.

Thursday began with the courts weighing his last-minute appeals. The Georgia Supreme Court was the first to deny a stay of execution, followed by a no from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and then the ultimate no Thursday night from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gary is the first inmate to die by lethal injection in Georgia this year.

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