Georgia to execute its oldest death row inmate for 1979 murder

Georgia's oldest death row inmate, 72-year-old Brandon Astor Jones, is shown in this undated handout photo provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections in Jackson, Georgia, February 1, 2016. REUTERS/Georgia Dept of Corrections/Handout via Reuters

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A 72-year-old man convicted of murdering a convenience store manager in a 1979 robbery in Atlanta's suburbs is set to be executed on Tuesday in Georgia.

Brandon Astor Jones, the oldest inmate on the state's death row, is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

His execution would be the fifth this year in the United States, and the first of two scheduled this month in Georgia, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which monitors capital punishment nationwide. Texas, Alabama and Florida executed inmates last month, the center said.

The Georgia Supreme Court on Tuesday denied Jones' request for a stay of execution.

The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles late on Monday also turned down his petition to commute his sentence to life without parole.

Jones would be the second man executed in the shooting death of Roger Tackett, 35, inside a convenience store in June 1979, according to court testimony.

Jones was arrested inside the store, along with co-defendant Van Roosevelt Solomon, by a police officer who heard four gunshots, according to a Georgia Supreme Court case synopsis.

Jones later told another officer "there is a man in the back - hurt bad," court records said. Police found a badly wounded Tackett in a locked storeroom.

Solomon, also convicted of murder, was executed in 1985. Jones has been appealing his death sentence for decades.

A federal district court overturned his death sentence in 1989 because a trial judge had allowed a Bible in the jury deliberation room, finding it could have improperly influenced jurors to base their decision on scripture instead of the law.

Another jury again sentenced Jones to death in 1997. Jones has continued to appeal the verdict, claiming that his trial lawyers failed to introduce evidence showing his history of mental illness and childhood sexual abuse.

Jones declined to request a last meal and instead will be offered the standard prison menu of chicken and rice, rutabagas, seasoned turnip greens, dry white beans, cornbread, bread pudding and fruit punch, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

His execution is scheduled about two weeks before state officials plan to carry out another death sentence on convicted murderer Travis Clinton Hittson, whose execution is set for Feb. 17.

(Editing by Letitia Stein, Sandra Maler and Andrew Hay)

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