Tuesday execution: Killer seeks clemency; cites abuse, possible racism

The attorney for a condemned murderer asked the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to look closely at Kenneth Fults’ early life before deciding whether to stop his execution set for Tuesday evening.

In his clemency petition that was made public on Friday, Fults’ lawyer referenced an abusive and tumultuous childhood, the alleged racist leanings of one of the jurors who said he should die, and the remorse Fults expressed when he pleaded guilty to murdering his 19-year-old next-door neighbor.

“Kenneth Fults and his family recognize that the relief they request is extraordinary,” wrote defense attorney Lindsay Bennett.

Fults also wrote the board, saying, “I don’t have the right to ask you for clemency for myself, but I ask you for clemency so that my crimes will not cause more suffering to other people, especially my family.”

Fults’ advocates are scheduled to meet with the five-member Parole Board on Monday morning. Then the current and former prosecutors from the Griffin Judicial Circuit will argue in the afternoon before the board that Fults’ death sentence should be carried out as scheduled, at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

If he is put to death, Fults will be the fourth person Georgia has executed this year. Another man, Daniel Anthony Lucas, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on April 27.

According to police and the accounts Fults gave to investigators and during sentencing, Fults was on a weeklong crime spree with the goal of stealing guns so he could kill his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. He tried to shoot his rival on Jan. 29, 1996, from an empty apartment, but the stolen gun jammed. Fults wanted a better gun, according to prosecutors.

So the next morning, after his neighbor’s live-in boyfriend had left for work, Fults broke into Cathy Bounds’ trailer. He 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 put a pillow over the back of her head and shot her five times.

Investigators found under Fults’ trailer some of items he took in burglaries earlier that week, as well as the .22-caliber handgun used to kill Bounds and a letter written in gang code detailing her murder.

He confessed to police and pleaded guilty, which meant he would only go before a jury to be sentenced.

According to the 28-page clemency petition, half the jurors now have second thoughts about their decision. One cites the racist comments fellow juror Thomas Buffington, now dead, used in regard to Fults when an investigator working on his appeal asked about the case. Some jurors also said public defender Johnnie Mostiler, who died in 2000, did not put up much evidence to defend Fults.

The petition also says Fults, his brother and sister were raised by an alcoholic mother who moved often and was sometimes missing from their lives. The petition says Fults’ mother would beat him with sticks, switches and electrical cords. He joined a street gang, the Black Gangster Disciples, to create the family he thought he was missing, the petition said.

“The path from gangs to incarceration is often a predicable one,” the petition said. “And so too is the path ahead for a child who suffers a steady stream of disadvantages and abuse. Mr. Fults, the man, committed a terrible tragic act when he killed Cathy Bounds. But before the man existed, there was an innocent, vulnerable child in his place.”

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