The State Board of Pardons and Paroles decided late Wednesday afternoon it would take the night to consider the clemency petition of Joshua Bishop, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Earlier a judge in the county that is home to Georgia’s Death Row has denied Bishop’s appeal so now his lawyers are turning to the Georgia Supreme Court .
The decision from a judge in Butts County, where the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison is located, came as the State Board of Pardons and Paroles was hearing from those who want Bishop’s lethal injection carried out as scheduled.
By then, the board had already heard Bishop’s advocates’ pleas for mercy. Their arguments focused on his abusive childhood, his co-defendant’s much lighter sentence and the faith in God that he found in prison
The board has three options: commuted Bishop’s sentence to life without parole, deny clemency or issue a 90-day stay so the five members will have more time to consider his petition.
Whatever the board decides, said attorney Wilson DuBose, the 41-year-old Bishop is “at peace with his life.”
“He (Bishop) is quite conscious of what’s going on around him,” Wilson said, reflecting on his visit with Bishop on Tuesday at the prison near Jackson. “He is scared. But he is at peace.”
Bishop was sentenced to die for the Baldwin County murder of 35-year-old Leverett Morrison. On June 25, 1994, Bishop, Morrison and Mark Braxley spent the afternoon drinking at a bar and by evening they were smoking crack cocaine at Braxley’s trailer.
Morrison had fallen asleep when Bishop, then 19, and Braxley, 36, tried to get Morrison’s car keys out of his pants pocket. Morrison woke and there was a struggle. It ended with the Bishop and Braxley beating Morrison with a curtain rod and later leaving his body between two dumpsters near Braxley’s trailer.
Though he confessed to killing Morrison — and told police about another murder he committed two weeks earlier — Bishop still went to trial. Braxley, who also helped Bishop murder of Ricky Lee Wills two weeks before Morrison died, pleaded guilty to murder and avoided the death penalty. Braxley is serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole, and he is now eligible for clemency.
“You’ve go two murders in a brutal fashion,” said Stephen Bradley, the district attorney in the Ocmulgee Circuit which includes Baldwin County.
Bishop’s lawyers also focused on “the disparity of the sentences,” claiming Braxley was the instigator.
“This started with Bishop,” said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who was with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office when the murder occurred.
But he added, “I think both of them need the death penalty.”
Wilson said several of the 14 witnesses who spoke on Bishop’s behalf this morning detailed his troubled childhood. In his petition for clemency, the lawyers witnesses described Bishop’s life with a mother who was addicted to drugs and alcohol and often homeless, years of beatings at the hands of his mother’s boyfriends and Bishop’s despair at not knowing who of three men was his father.
Bradley, who was one of the two prosecutors who won the conviction against Bishop, said the Morrison’s three adult children attended the meeting with the board and two of them spoke.
Bishop has asked that his final meal before his scheduled lethal injection include a barbecue sandwich, Brunswick stew, potato chips, slaw, lemonade and purple candy.