Parole Board rejects Brian Keith Terrell’s clemency request

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Brian Keith Terrell’s requet for clemency, the decision come a little more than two hours after prosecutors met with the panel to argue that his death sentence should be carried out Tuesday evening as scheduled.

Just a few hours earier Terrell’s mother says her son is innocent and his praying that the State Board of Pardons and Paroles stops his execution for the 1992 murder of a 70-year-old family friend.

“My son is innocent,” Barbara Terrell said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Terrell is scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. for the murder of John Watson unless the courts stop his lethal injection.

Barbara Terrell, along with other relatives and friends, pleaded with the Parole Board Monday morning to show mercy. In the afternoon, Newton County District Attorney Layla Zon and Alan Cook, who prosecuted Terrell, met with the board for three hours and 15 minutes.

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Terrell, just released from prison after serving 18 months for a DeKalb County robbery conviction, stole Watson’s checkbook. He and another man wrote checks totaling $8,700 with some of them made out to Terrell. When Watson discovered the theft, he told Terrell’s mother that he would not press charges if her son returned a substantial amount of the stolen money to him within two days. Instead Terrell waited for Watson to leave his Covington home for a dialysis appointment and attacked him, shooting and then beating him to death.

Barbara Terrell found his body after the dialysis clinic called her to report that he had not shown up for his appointment.

“He was my friend,” she said. “I was his caretaker and he was my patient.”

Several hours after meeting with the board, Terrell’s lawyers also filed an appeal in the federal court in Atlanta, citing possible problems with the lethal injection drug that will be made specifically for him.

The issues listed in the court filing are the same that were in an appeal filed last week in Fulton Superior Court and then withdrawn Monday morning.

Terrell was originally slated for execution on March 10, but it was called off because of problems with drugs secured for the execution of another murderer, Kelly Gissendaner. She was put to death in September after the state determined that the pentobarbital made for her became cloudy because it was stored in temperatures that were too cold.

In his appeals, Terrell’s lawyers are again raising questions about the compounded lethal injection drug that Georgia uses in executions. Courts hearing appeals of other condemned killers have approved the use of a compounded drug to carry out an execution.

Terrell’s lawyers sat there is still uncertainty around the reason for the problems with Gissendaner’s drugs.

The lawyers write that at the very least the state should find another pharmacist to make the drug that will be used to put him to death. They say DOC records show the pharmacist they use has an “unconstitutional error rate… around 50 percent. As to alternatives, it would be reasonable to obtain drugs from a compounding pharmacist who does not have such a history of mixing defective drugs.”

The argument before the Parole Board focused on the witnesses who testified about what happened on June 22, 1992, when Watson was shot and beaten to death moments after leaving his Newton County house for a dialysis appointment.

In the clemency petition, Terrell’s lawyer writes that Jermaine Johnson, Terrell’s cousin and the prosecution’s key witness, lied when he testified and the neighbor who said she saw Terrell at Watson’s house actually saw someone else.

According to testimony, Terrell, just out of prison, stole 10 blank checks from Watson, his mother’s friend. He wrote checks, some to himself, for a total of $8,700. When Watson discovered the theft, he told Terrell’s mother he wouldn’t press charges if her son returned most of the money. Two days later, Terrell killed Watson.

In the court appeal filed last week, attorney Bo King focused on the compounded lethal injection drug, pentobarbital made by an unknown pharmacist. He said the problem with the drug earlier this year was never fully explained.

“It is only a matter of time before the drugs — compounded by an unknown pharmacy using unknown ingredients in unknown circumstances — become defective again,” King wrote.

The sources of Georgia’s lethal injection drug and the state secrecy shrouding that information, are issues that have been raised several times in appeals if other condemned killers. Repeatedly the courts have upheld the use of pentobarbital and have ruled that Georgia can keep secret its drug sources to protect pharmacists from public pressure.

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