CONNER DENIED STAY OF EXECUTION
From Public Information Officer
Supreme Court of Georgia
Atlanta, July 14, 2016 – In a 5-to-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Georgia has denied a stay of execution for John Wayne Conner, who is scheduled to be put to death at 7:00 tonight by lethal injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA.
Conner, 60, has been on death row for 34 years. He was sentenced to die for the 1982 murder of J.T. White in Telfair County. According to the facts of the case, Conner and White had been partying and drinking when they got into a fight after White, 29, said he wanted to have sex with Conner’s girlfriend. Conner, who was 25 at the time, hit White with a quart bottle, then beat him with a tree branch, leaving White in a drainage ditch. When Conner returned to his home in Milan, GA, he told his girlfriend they had to leave town; he had had a fight with White and thought he had killed him. Before they left town, Conner told her “he had to be sure,” and he returned to the ditch where White was still lying. His girlfriend, who was waiting nearby, heard a thud, then Conner returned, saying now he was sure. According to the medical examiner, White had been hit so hard in the face with a blunt object that his teeth, as well as portions of the bone to which they were attached, were broken away from his upper and lower jaws. The medical examiner testified that the trauma to White’s head caused brain damage and bleeding in and around the brain which extended into his lungs, causing him to drown in his own blood.
In today’s order, the state Supreme Court has denied both Conner’s motion for a stay of execution, as well as his request to appeal a ruling July 6 by the Butts County Superior Court. That court denied his motion for a stay and rejected all his claims, which included that he is intellectually disabled, that his trial attorney rendered “ineffective assistance of counsel,” and that it is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment to execute him after 34 years. Justice David Nahmias, joined by Justice Robert Benham, wrote a dissent, in which he stated that he would have granted the stay and allowed Conner to appeal on the question of whether “his execution more than 34 years after being sentenced to death would qualify as cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”