Ashley Petty holds a candle at a protest against the death penalty on March 2, 2015, on the steps of the state Capitol in Atlanta. BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM
Photo: Ben Gray
Photo: Ben Gray

Oldest man on Ga. Death Row to be executed

A signal that Georgia is continuing its stepped-up pace in carrying out the death penalty, a judge signed a warrant Wednesday authorizing the execution of the oldest man on Georgia’s Death Row.

Brandon Astor Jones will be put to death for the 1979 murder of the manager of a Cobb County convenience store who had stayed late to do paperwork. If the lethal injection is carried out as planned, Jones will die just 11 days shy of his 73rd birthday and almost 31 years to the day after his co-defendant was electrocuted for Roger Tackett’s June 16, 1979, murder.

Co-defendant Van Roosevelt Solomon’s execution came relatively quickly, on Feb. 20, 1985, less than six years after Tackett’s murder.

Jones was first sentenced to die on Oct. 11, 1979, but a federal court ordered him re-sentenced because there was a Bible in the jury room during deliberations. Jones was sentenced to death a second time on Sept. 23, 1997.

At one time, Jones had argued that sentencing him after he had spent almost two decades on Death Row was an affront to human dignity and “waiting for execution is intolerably cruel.”

The appellate courts disagreed. Jones exhausted all the regular appeals last October when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take his case.

He does, however, have a complaint pending in U.S. District Court regarding Georgia’s law that allows the Department of Corrections to keep secret the identify of the pharmacist who will make the pentobarbital that will be used to put Jones to death.

Jones stands to be the oldest man Georgia has executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970s. The oldest man so far was Andrew Brannon, 66 when he died by lethal injection a year ago.

Jones and Solomon were captured just moments after they killed Tackett, who was shot in the head at almost point-blank range.

A Cobb County policeman had driven a stranded motorist to the Tenneco convenience store to use the pay phone around 1:45 a.m. when he noticed a car parked in front with the driver’s side door open and lights on inside the business, which should have closed almost two hours earlier. The car belonged to Tackett.

Looking through a window, the officer saw Jones stick his head out of the storeroom door in the back before closing the door. Moments later, the policeman heard shots, and he found Jones and Solomon inside the storeroom and two .38-caliber revolvers — a large Smith & Wesson and a smaller Colt — nearby.

Tackett was shot five times from behind — twice in his right hip and once in the jaw, behind his left ear and in his thumb. The medical examiner said Tackett was lying on the ground when he was shot behind the ear.

Jones told the officer they found Tackett “bad hurt” in the back of the store when they broke in to take money from the register.

Jones’ execution could be the first of five lethal injections expected to be scheduled over the next few weeks and months as other men on Georgia’s Death Row have exhausted their appeals. That number could increase as there are 10 now before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last year Georgia put to death four men and a woman, the largest number of executions this state has carried out in a year since 1987, when Georgia also executed five murderers, all electrocuted.

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