State lawyers reject arguments raised by death row inmate
ATLANTA (AP) — Lawyers for Georgia filed court papers Monday rejecting arguments by an inmate set to be executed this week that prosecutors had used false and misleading testimony to convict him.
Brian Keith Terrell, 47, is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted of the June 1992 killing of John Watson, a friend of his mother.
Terrell’s lawyers argued in a court filing Friday that no physical evidence links Terrell to the slaying of the man from Covington, east of Atlanta. They also said Terrell’s cousin, whose testimony prosecutors relied on, has since said he lied to save himself.
Lawyers for the state countered Monday that the courts have already heard and rejected the issues raised by Terrell’s lawyers.
Terrell was on parole when he stole and forged checks belonging to Watson, who reported the theft but asked police not to pursue charges if Terrell returned most of the money. On the day Terrell was to return the money, he had his cousin drive him to Watson’s house, where he shot the 70-year-old man several times and severely beat him, lawyers for the state have said.
Terrell’s cousin, Jermaine Johnson, was his co-defendant and had been in jail for more than a year with the threat of the death penalty hanging over him when he agreed to a deal with prosecutors to testify against Terrell. Johnson was allowed to plead guilty to a robbery charge, receiving a five-year prison sentence.
In a sworn statement submitted Friday by Terrell’s lawyers, defense investigator Melanie Goodwill wrote that Johnson has told her and defense attorney Gerald King that he was 18 and facing the death penalty and was pressured by police and the prosecutor to testify against his cousin. He told Goodwill and King he would like to give a sworn statement telling the truth but is afraid he might be arrested and put in prison for perjury if he does, Goodwill wrote.
Johnson has consistently testified under oath that Terrell admitted to killing Watson, state lawyers wrote. The hearsay statement given by the defense investigator does not meet the legal bar for new consideration, they wrote.
Prosecutors also misleadingly presented the testimony of a neighbor of Watson’s as having said she saw Terrell at the scene, but the woman said Terrell is not the one she saw and prosecutors never asked her to identify him in court, Terrell’s lawyers wrote.
State lawyers argued in their filing Monday that Terrell’s attorneys already argued in previous court proceedings that prosecutors knowingly presented false testimony by Johnson and misleadingly presented the neighbor’s testimony. Those arguments have already been reviewed and rejected by courts, state lawyers argued.
In a separate state court filing, Terrell’s lawyers have challenged the safety and effectiveness of the drug the state plans to use to execute Terrell. They withdrew that challenge Monday but filed a similar complaint in federal court and asked a judge to halt his execution.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only state entity authorized to commute a death sentence, denied clemency after a hearing for Terrell on Monday. As is its custom, the parole board gave no reason for its decision.