Georgia inmate faces execution tonight His earlier appeals helped to define current law on capital punishment.

September 24, 1991|By New York Times

ATLANTA -- After 13 years of litigation that helped define the law on capital punishment, Warren McCleskey may be put to death tonight despite statements by two jurors that they no longer think he should be executed.

McCleskey, sentenced to death for the 1978 killing of an Atlanta policeman, was the subject of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings in recent years that have dramatically narrowed the options for appeals by death row inmates.

Now, in a paradoxical finale to his case, McCleskey's hope for a commutation from the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles depends on how the board responds to information the Supreme Court refused to consider in a sweeping 1990 ruling that dramatically limited the rights of death row inmates to file appeals.

The board yesterday heard from two jurors who said that, had they been told that one of McCleskey's two accusers was a police informant who was offered the chance of a lighter sentence in exchange for incriminating testimony, they would not have voted for the death penalty.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that that same information was invalid because it should have been introduced earlier in his appeals.

In two separate hearings yesterday, the board heard first from family members and friends of the officer urging an execution and then from those opposing it.

"All I want is justice," said Jodie Schlatt Swanner, now 24, the only child of Officer Frank Schlatt, who was killed in a furniture store robbery in 1978.

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