J.W. Ledford Jr. Photo/AP
A man set to be executed on Tuesday requested a huge last meal after asking for death by firing squad instead of lethal injection.
death row inmate J.W. ‘Boy’ Ledford Jr, 45, convicted in the January 1992 stabbing death of his 73-year-old neighbor, Dr Harry Johnston, near his home in Murray County in northwest Georgia, argued that his scheduled death by lethal injection will cause unconstitutional suffering. He says execution by firing squad is preferable.
He is scheduled for execution at 7pm on Tuesday at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia.
For his final meal, Ledford requested filet mignon wrapped in bacon with pepper jack cheese, large french fries, 10 chicken tenders with sauce, fried pork chops, a blooming onion, pecan pie with vanilla ice cream, sherbet and a Sprite, according to WGLC.
They cite experts who say long-term exposure to gabapentin alters brain chemistry in such a way that lethal injection drug pentobarbital cannot be relied upon to make him unconscious and devoid of sensation or feeling.Ledford made the request for his last meal Friday after his lawyers filed a federal lawsuit that said Ledford suffers from chronic nerve pain that has been treated with increasing doses of the drug gabapentin for more than a decade.
“Accordingly, there is a substantial risk that Mr. Ledford will be aware and in agony as the pentobarbital attacks his respiratory system, depriving his brain, heart, and lungs of oxygen as he drowns in his own saliva,” the lawsuit says.
That would violate the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment enshrined in the Eighth Amendment of the US
Constitution, Ledford’s lawyers argue.
But the US Supreme Court has said that when challenging an execution method on those grounds, an inmate must propose a “known and available” method of execution.
Large french fries – approximately 510 calories
Ledford’s lawyers, therefore, suggest that he be executed by firing squad.
There is no alternative method of lethal injection available to the state since the drugs used in executions have become increasingly difficult for states to obtain because manufacturers have prohibited their use for capital punishment, the lawsuit says.
But the Supreme Court has held that execution by firing squad is constitutional, and Georgia already has the skilled personnel, weapons and ammunition needed to carry one out, Ledford’s lawyers argue.
There are numerous law enforcement officers who currently have the necessary training to pass a proficiency test to qualify for a firing squad, they say.
They note, however, that the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals has previously ruled – including as recently as this week in an Alabama case – that an inmate can only suggest an alternative execution method that is already authorized by Georgia law, and Georgia law only allows execution by lethal injection.
Three states – Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah – allow for a firing squad as a backup if lethal injection drugs aren’t available, said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, which compiles statistics on capital punishment.
Ledford is effectively prevented from meeting the burden imposed by the Supreme Court of proposing an alternative execution method when challenging the state’s execution protocol as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual since state law only allows for lethal injection, his lawyers say.
For that reason, they say they recognize that a dismissal of their lawsuit on those grounds is inevitable and say that a quick dismissal would allow enough time for them to request a hearing before the full 11th Circuit.
The office of state Attorney General Chris Carr had no comment Friday morning on the lawsuit, spokeswoman Katelyn McCreary said in an email.
Ledford is set to be executed Tuesday by lethal injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackon. Photo/AP
US District Judge Steve Jones had ordered the state’s lawyers to file a response to the lawsuit by 4:30pm Friday.
Ledford’s lawyers also have asked the judge to order the state not to discontinue or withhold his medication pending his execution.
That could cause him to suffer withdrawal symptoms and would leave him to experience the pain for which the gabapentin was prescribed, they say.
Ledford’s attorneys also have asked the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare his life, citing a rough childhood, substance abuse from an early age and his intellectual disability.
The board, which is the only authority in Georgia with power to commute a death sentence, plans to hold a meeting Monday to hear arguments for or against granting clemency.
Ledford was also convicted for the kidnapping of his victim’s wife, Antoinette Johnston.
Ledford was 20 years old when he lived next to the couple in Murray County. He had known them his whole life.
On January 31, 1992, Antoinette had seen her husband driving away in his truck with a passenger she couldn’t identify, according to Dalton Daily Citizen.
Later, neighbor Ledford forced his way into the home at knifepoint, and demanded money and guns. He tied her up on the bed and escaped with both. She was able to free herself and call police.
He was later apprehended and Dr. Johnston’s body was found in a small building on the couple’s property. His head was nearly sliced from his body.
He was found guilty of the murder and given a death sentence in November.
His lawyers have also argued that Ledford should receive clemency because of his troubled past. He had no history of violence before the murder.
Ledford told police he had a number of beers and smoked a couple joints in the hours before the killing.
Known as ‘Boy’ because he was his parents’ first male child after six girls, Ledford’s childhood was characterized by whippings and verbal abuse from his father, who was strict when sober and mean when drunk, the clemency application says.
Chicken tenders with sauce – approximately 860 calories. Photo/123RF
Ledford’s older sisters and cousins began giving him alcohol when he was seven or eight to watch him get drunk and then began giving him drugs around age 10, the application says.
Ledford is intellectually disabled and that caused him to struggle throughout school and later made even simple jobs requiring minimal skills difficult, his lawyers wrote.
State law and a US Supreme Court ruling prohibit the execution of the intellectually disabled, which means Ledford is ineligible for execution, his lawyers argue.
State and federal courts have consistently rejected Ledford’s claims of intellectual disability, but his lawyers are urging the parole board members to use the extra discretion they’re allowed to consider the totality of his circumstances.
The clemency application also includes testimonials from friends, family members and pen pals who say he has offered them support and help even from prison.
Two prison guards are quoted as saying he never gave them trouble and got along with other inmates and officers.
Life without the chance of parole was not a sentencing option at the time of Ledford’s trial, but five of the jurors from his trial told his lawyers they would have chosen that instead of death had it been available, the application says.
Ledford Jr’s last meal breakdown
* Filet mignon wrapped in bacon (6oz) – approximately 310 calories
* Pepper jack cheese (1oz) – approximately 105 calories
* Blooming onion (1) – approximately 1,949 calories
* Large french fries (5.90z) – approximately 510 calories
* Fried pork chops (196g) – approximately 310 calories
* Chicken tenders with sauce (10) – approximately 860 calories
* Pecan pie (1 slice) – approximately 456 calories
* Vanilla ice cream (.5 cup) – approximately 145 calories
* Sherbet (.5 cup) – approximately 107 calories
* Sprite (21oz) – approximately 192 calories
Total: 4,944 calories