Judge declines to give Hammond stay of execution

A judge on Monday declined to delay the execution of condemned killer Emmanuel Hammond, whose lawyers have called into question the integrity of a drug to be used for his lethal injection.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson denied a request by Hammond's lawyers for a two-week reprieve of his execution set for Tuesday night at 7. The attorneys asked for time to review records the state Department of Corrections turned over Friday -- more than two months after the lawyers filed an Open Records Act request to get them.

Hammond sits on death row for the 1988 murder of Julie Love, a  27-year-old preschool fitness teacher. Love was raped, bound with coat hangers and killed with a sawed-off shotgun blast to her head.

On Monday, one of Hammond's lawyers, Brian Mendelsohn, testified that DOC records he reviewed over the weekend suggest that the first drug to be used in the execution, the anesthetic sodium thiopental, could be counterfeit or inferior.

Mendelsohn said records show that Georgia received its sodium thiopental from Dream Pharma, a company that operates out of the back of the Elgone Driving Academy, a storefront driving school in London. He noted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last July initially halted the importation of the drug from Dream Pharma citing "misbranding" concerns. The FDA allowed the drugs to be shipped a month later, records show.

Gerry Weber, a lawyer who filed suit to get the records on Hammond's behalf, told Johnson the legal team wants to know where Dream Pharma got the drugs. "There is a cloud over these drugs and we need to know if they are what they purport to be," he said. The lawyers need to investigate the matter to ensure that the execution "is medically and ethically sound and constitutional."

Joseph Drolet of the state Attorney General's Office said Hammond's lawyers are basing their case on speculation. "They're trying to create a red herring" to subvert the execution, he said.

Johnson said he had been presented no evidence that proved the DOC's stockpile of sodium thiopental was unsound. He noted drugs from the same supply were used to carry out Georgia's most recent execution -- of Brandon Rhode on Sept. 27 -- and there had been no reports of problems. "It stands to reason if they worked in the Rhode execution they will do so in the Hammond execution."

Separately, Johnson found DOC had violated the Open Records Act and said Hammond's lawyers can collect legal fees from the agency for having to file suit to get the records.

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