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Death Row inmate’s execution in limbo pending legal action


Convicted rapist and murderer Virgil Delano Presnell Jr.’s execution by lethal injection that was scheduled for 7 p.m. last Tuesday was postponed. He has been on death row for 46 years and will remain there until a legal matter is resolved. His death warrant is valid for seven days, after which the state must obtain a new warrant. 

Attorney General Chris Carr’s office notified the Department of Corrections the execution would not proceed as planned Tuesday, pending legal action. Earlier Tuesday, Carr had appealed a Fulton County judge’s decision to temporarily block the execution.

The appeal, which was released Tuesday afternoon, directed the matter to the Supreme Court of Georgia. The court had not yet issued a ruling.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shermela Williams sided with Presnell’s attorneys Monday night, finding that the state had violated an agreement outlining when executions could resume after the COVID-19 pandemic. Williams’ ruling came down hours after the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Presnell’s clemency request for a stay of execution and a commutation of his sentence to life without parole.

Presnell was convicted in 1976 of abducting eight-year-old Lori Smith and her 10-year-old friend from a wooded path in Smyrna as they walked home from school. He drove them to another wooded area in Cobb, where he raped the older girl and drowned Smith in Nickajack Creek.


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