Mary Catherine Johnson, with Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, holds a photo of Kenneth Fults outside of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson on Tuesday evening April 12, 2016 at the scheduled time of Fults' execution. As Johnson held a photo of Fults, the protesters talked about him and his family, then took turns reading the names and execution dates of the 62 men and one woman put to death in Georgia since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com
Photo: Ben Gray
Photo: Ben Gray

Georgia executes Kenneth Fults for 1996 murder

Georgia has executed 47-year-old Kenneth Fults for the 1996 murder of his neighbor.

Fults was killed by lethal injection at 7:37 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center in Jackson.

There was no one in the execution chamber for Fults, so he had no final words for witnesses from the media and the state who had gathered. But he ended the prayer offered by the chaplain with, “Amen.”

A few minutes after the execution drugs had begun to flow, he twice looked at the IV inserted into his right arm. Moments later, his entire body shook for a few seconds. Then he was still. Fifteen minutes later he was pronounced dead.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Fults’ appeal for mercy nearly four hours before the scheduled execution hour of 7 p.m.

The rejection came even before Fults was given his last meal of steak, brown rice, baked potato and apple juice. Usually it is well past the scheduled execution hour when the Supreme Court decides last-minute appeals.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down his petition for clemency Monday night.

Fults is scheduled be the fourth man put to death in Georgia this year.

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Fults’ asks the justices to stop his execution at least until after they have heard arguments in a non-capital Colorado case in which there were similar issues — jurors who allegedly held racist attitudes that went against the defendant.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear in the fall an appeal by Miguel Angel Pena-Rodriguez, who was convicted of attempted sexual assault on a child younger than 15. It was later learned that some of the jurors who convicted Pena-Rodriguez made derogatory comments about Mexicans.

In Fults’ case, a juror who voted for death used a racial slur in an affidavit he gave eight years after Fults’ trial.

Fults, a black man, pleaded guilty to murdering his white neighbor, 19-year-old Cathy Bounds, on Jan. 30, 1996, at the end of a weeklong crime spree in Griffin. Fults admitted he broke into several houses to steal guns so he could kill his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.

After Bounds’ live-in boyfriend left for work that morning, Fults went into her trailer, wrapped 6 feet of electrical tape around her eyes, led her into a bedroom and put her face-down on a bed. As she begged for her life, he shot her five times in the back of the head.

Investigators canvassing the trailer park after Bounds’ body was discovered found under Fults’ trailer items taken in previous burglaries, spent shells from the .22-caliber handgun used to kill Bounds and a letter written in gang code detailing her murder.

Faced with the evidence, Fults pleaded guilty with the hope the jury would show mercy if he admitted to the crime and showed remorse.

Each prospective juror was asked if the differences in Fults’ and Bounds’ race would matter, and all those seated, including Thomas Buffington, said it would not.

But when an investigator working on Fults’ appeal interviewed Buffington eight years later, he gave a different answer, and confirmed it by repeating the racial slur in a written sworn statement.

“I don’t know if he (Fults) ever killed anybody, but that (slur) got just what should have happened,” Buffington, now dead, wrote. “Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what that (slur) deserved.”

The courts declined to hear that issue in Fults’ appeals, writing that it was too late and “procedurally barred.”

Georgia has another execution set for April 27. Daniel Anthony Lucas is scheduled to die by lethal injection for killing a Jones County father and his two children, one by one, on April 23, 1998. Lucas’ co-defendant, Brandon Rhode was executed on Sept. 27, 2010.

One woman and 62 men have been executed in Georgia since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

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