This undated file photo provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections shows convicted murderer Robert Wayne Holsey. Holsey is scheduled to be executed Tuesday, Dec. 9. A jury in February 1997 convicted Holsey of killing Baldwin County sheriff’s deputy Will Robinson. Holsey’s lawyers say he shouldn’t be executed because his trial lawyer failed to present evidence that could have spared him the death penalty. (AP Photo/Georgia Department of Corrections)
Georgia carried out the nation’s 34th execution of the year on Dec. 9, but the death of a man found guilty of killing a police officer left questions whether justice was truly served.
Robert Wayne Holsey, 49, died by lethal injection late Dec. 9 for the 1995 murder of Baldwin County, Ga. deputy Will Robinson, who pulled him over following a convenience store robbery, according to several news reports.
The execution, which was scheduled for 7 p.m, was delayed by almost four hours as Holsey’s lawyers made last-ditch efforts to stay the state’s hand.
Holsey’s attorneys argued that he should not be executed in part because he received inadequate legal representation during his 1997 trial. Holsey was initially represented by lawyer Andrew Prince, who later admitted to downing large quantities of vodka throughout the proceedings.
Prince may have been trying to drown out his own legal troubles—soon after Holsey’s trial, he surrendered his law license and went to prison for stealing money from clients, according to Reuters. Before Prince died in 2011, he himself testified that he did not adequately represent Holsey, said attorney Brian Kammer, who handled Holsey’s appeals.
“He admitted that he had no business representing anybody, certainly not in a capital case,” Kammer said.
Among Prince’s failings was his failure to present Holsey’s alleged history of abuse at the hands of a mentally ill mother and Holsey’s own intellectual disabilities—he had an IQ of 70—as mitigating factors, Kammer argued. Holsey’s I.Q. alone put him on the borderline of a disability that could have made his execution illegal.
But the Georgia Supreme Court backed state officials who maintained that Holsey was adequately represented and that he was not severely disabled enough to cause authorities to rethink the application of capital punishment in his case, according to The New York Times.
In a motion filed with the state Supreme Court on Dec. 9, Holsey’s lawyers expressed concerns over Georgia’s unusually strict standard for judging mental disability. Georgia is the only state that requires that intellectual disability be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It is an almost impossible standard to achieve, especially in borderline cases, and violates the Constitution, the attorneys argued.
“By making it virtually impossible to prove intellectual disability, the Georgia standard reduces the Eighth Amendment’s ban on executing people with intellectual disabilities to a nullity,” Kammer wrote.
The Ga. Supreme Court rejected the appeal, and Holsey was executed at 10:51 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson, Ga. on Wednesday, Dec. 9.