After 3 Trials and Recanted Testimony, Georgia Set to Execute Man Who May Be Innocent

After three trials, Georgia is set to execute Brian Keith Terrell (pictured) on December 8, unless the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles grants him clemency in a hearing at which he will present claims that he is innocent. Terrell’s lawyers say that no physical evidence links him to the murder and that this conviction and death sentence are a product of prosecutorial misconduct and false and misleading testimony. The key testimony against Terrell came from a witness whom defense investigators say now admits to having lied to save himself. Terrell’s first trial ended in a mistrial when jurors could not agree on whether he was guilty. The second resulted in a conviction that was later overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court. The third trial concluded with a conviction and death sentence. Physical evidence from the crime scene leaves substantial questions as to Terrell’s guilt: footprints found near the victim’s body were smaller than Terrell’s feet, and none of the 13 fingerprints found by investigators matched his fingerprints. Terrell was convicted primarily on the testimony of his cousin, Jermaine Johnson, who spent a year in jail facing the threat of the death penalty before he made a deal with prosecutors to testify against Terrell in exchange for a five-year sentence. Johnson has told defense investigators that police and prosecutors pressured him to give false testimony against his cousin. Terrell’s lawyers say that prosecutors also presented misleading testimony that a neighbor had said she had seen Terrell at the murder scene, when in fact she had told authorities that he was not the man she had seen. At Terrell’s trial, the prosecutor emphasized the importance of Johnson’s testimony, saying during his closing statement, “If you never heard anything about Jermaine Johnson in this case, if he had never testified, would you have enough information to make a decision in this case? You wouldn’t.”

Terrell’s lawyers are also seeking a stay of execution in federal court raising questions concerning defects in drugs supplied to Georgia for other executions and the secrecy surrounding the state’s execution process. (K. Brumback, “Georgia man set to die for killing of mom’s friend; defense attorneys say he’s innocent,” Associated Press, December 5, 2015; “Clemency Hearing to be Held for Georgia Death Row Inmate,” Associated Press, December 7, 2015; R. Cook, “Brian Keith Terrell appeals to federal court to stop execution,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 7, 2015.) See Innocence.

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Source:: Death Penalty Information Center