A second death-row inmate, John Winfield, was set to be executed in Missouri after midnight.
Wellons was pronounced dead at 11:56 p.m. Tuesday.
Before the drug was administered, he apologized to the family of the teen he was convicted of killing, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “I ask and hope they will find peace in my death,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
One of the corrections officers fainted just before he was declared dead, the newspaper said.
“Numb. Speechless,” Wellons’ brother, Dwight Wellons, said in describing his feelings after the execution. He told NBC News that his family would prepare a statement on Wednesday.
Wellons, 59, became the first prisoner executed in Georgia since the state enacted a law that conceals the source of its drugs from the public and even the courts.
Less than an hour before execution time, a federal appeals judge expressed “serious concerns” about the law but he and his fellow jurists declined to stop the lethal injection. The U.S. Supreme Court then rejected a final appeal.
Wellons, 59, was sentenced to death for the 1989 rape and murder of 15-year-old neighbor India Roberts.
His relatives said that a quarter of a century after the crime, he was a changed man – a model prisoner and a jailhouse preacher who deserved clemency.
“The clemency hearing was a farce,” said Dwight Wellons.
Missouri was scheduled to execute Winfield after midnight. An appeal was sent to the U.S. Supreme Court with two hours to go, but the court refused to stop the execution.
A federal judge ordered a delay last week, finding there was evidence that state officials intimidated a prison employee who told defense lawyers he would back their bid for clemency for Winfield on the grounds that he is a model prisoner.
After a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to throw out the stay, the state attorney general asked the full court to rehear the matter and it vacated the stay. The defense then took the case to the high court.
Winfield, 46, was convicted of shooting his ex-girlfriend and two of her friends during a jealousy-fueled rampage in 1996. The friends. Arthea Sanders and Shawnee Murphy, were killed. The ex-girlfriend, Carmelita Donald, survived but was blinded.
Winfield’s daughter with Donald fought for clemency, while her mother and relatives of the other victims have said they want to see Winfield killed.
“It’s going to be a long night,” Murphy’s brother, Adam Murphy, said after the 8th Circuit ruling. “We’re just trying to think positive.”
No U.S. prisoners had been executed since April 29, when convicted murderer Clayton Lockett appeared to regain consciousness and writhe in pain midway through his lethal injection, which was using a new cocktail of drugs, in Oklahoma.
Across the country, death-row inmates have been challenging states’ uses of new drug combinations and laws and policies that keep the identity of suppliers secret.
Death-penalty states are having trouble obtaining drugs for lethal injections because pharmaceutical companies don’t want their products used to kill prisoners, and some lawmakers are eyeing different forms of execution, such as the electric chair, as a backup.
Georgia uses a single drug, pentobarbital.
( Courtesy AP, NBC & AGENCIES ……. Source ……. Our Freelance Contributor in The United States)