Ray Cromartie: Death row inmate executed without testing DNA evidence ‘that could have proved his innocence’

Samuel Lovett
Ray Jefferson Cromartie in custody, who was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday evening: AP

A man has been executed in the US state of Georgia despite a request from his lawyers for DNA evidence which they claimed would clear him of murder.

Ray Jefferson Cromartie​​ was convicted of the April 1994 shooting of shop worker Richard Slysz at a convenience store in the city of Thomasville.

Prosecutors said the 52-year-old had shot delicatessen worker Dan Wilson in the face three days before the killing, seriously injuring him.

Cromartie, who had long denied that he pulled the trigger, was executed with a lethal injection of pentobarbital at Georgia’s state prison in Jackson, after the state's Supreme Court rejected two appeals by the inmate’s attorneys.

They had requested state and federal courts to allow DNA testing of evidence collected from the crime scenes which they said would prove Cromartie was not the shooter.

They had wanted to examine shell casings from both shootings and clothing found near the first shooting site, along with a packet of cigarettes found near Slysz’s body.

Clothing samples from Slysz and from other people they say are potential shooters was also requested.

All of these were denied by judges.

In a statement after Cromartie’s execution, his lawyer Shawn Nolan said this was “sad and frankly outrageous”.

He added: “In this day and age, where DNA testing is routine, it is shocking that Georgia decided to end this man’s life without allowing us, his attorneys, access to the materials to do these simple tests."

Slysz’s daughter, Elizabeth Legette, had supported their calls.

She criticised state officials for their refusal to enforce testing and said in statement that she had “serious questions” about Cromartie’s guilt.

“This leads me to the conclusion that victims’ rights extend only to those who support what the state apparently wants most in death penalty cases — the execution of the offender or the alleged offender,” she added.

Cromartie was sentenced to death in 1997.

Aided by two accomplices, Corey Clark and Thaddeus Lucas, prosecutors said he had gone to the Junior Food Store in Thomasville to steal beer before turning the gun on Slysz.

Both would later testify against him, before serving prison time and being released.

Having borrowed the weapon from his cousin, prosecutors said that three days before the killing Cromartie had also shot Wilson, seriously injuring him.

A judge last month found it unlikely that DNA testing would lead to a different verdict.

They said Cromartie waited too long to request testing and failed to show he was not just trying to delay his execution. Georgia’s Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of that ruling.

He was the third inmate in Georgia and the 20th in the United States to be executed in 2019.

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