Brian Keith Terrell was put to death at 12:52 a.m. Wednesday for the 1992 murder of 70-year-old John Watson of Covington.
The U.S. Supreme Court denied Terrell’s final appeal shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday, clearing the way for the death to proceed. But it took an hour for the nurse assigned to the execution to get IVs inserted into both of the condemned man’s arms. She eventually had to put one into Terrell’s right hand.
Terrell winced several times, apparently in pain. After all the witnesses were seated and a prayer was offered, Terrell raised his head and mouthed, “Didn’t do it,” to Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, who was sitting at the center of the front row.
Terrell’s execution marks the fifth lethal injection the state has carried out this year, more than any other year since the state first used lethal injection in 2001.
Unlike a number of condemned men who preceded him, Terrell, 47, did eat his last meal. But he had the same dinner served other inmates at the Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson: chicken and rice, beans, rutabagas, turnip greens and cornbread.
As for visitors, only his pastor from Covington showed up Tuesday. His mother, who has insisted Terrell is innocent, was absent.
In 1992, Terrell stole John Watson’s checkbook and withdrew a total of $8,700 from the victim’s bank account.
Watson, who was a friend of Terrell’s mother, Barbara, told her he would not press charges against her son if a substantial amount of the stolen money was returned within two days. Instead, Terrell ambushed Watson as he left his Covington house for a dialysis appointment.
Terrell’s lawyers had pleaded for clemency because of their concerns about the pharmacist who made the lethal injection drug.
According to court filings, that pharmacist has a 50 percent error rate.
The pharmacist — whose identity is secret under state law — compounded the drugs used in six previous executions, including the pentobarbital that turned cloudy in early March, forcing the state to postpone scheduled executions. The Department of Corrections said it has addressed the problem. Kelly Gissendaner, who was the lone woman on Georgia’s death row, and another man have since been put to death.
Terrell’s lawyers argued in court filings that at the very least Georgia should use another pharmacist to make the drug.
The 11th U.S. Court of Appeals declined his appeal Tuesday evening; the Georgia Supreme Court turned down his appeal Tuesday afternoon; the U.S. District Court did the same Tuesday morning; and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency Monday night.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.