UPDATE: Georgia prepares to execute first inmate of 2017 - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Georgia prepares to execute first inmate of 2017

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Mugshot provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections. Mugshot provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections.

UPDATE: A North Georgia man who killed a local doctor is set to be executed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

J.W. Ledford Jr. killed Dr. Harry Johnston 25 years ago. Johnston was the doctor who brought Ledford into the world.

A Murray County jury found him guilty of stabbing Johnston and robbing his wife.

His death will mark Georgia's first execution this year.

The people Channel 3 spoke with are ready to move past the crime. They said the area has dealt with reminders of the tragedy for too long.

"It tore everybody up," Reed Patterson,a neighbor said.

25 years have gone by, but the memories from that day are still fresh for Patterson.

"It sent cold chills up and down my back that it could happen in this community," Patterson said.

He considered 73-year-old Harry Johnston more than a doctor. He was a friend.

"People went to locking their doors at night afraid it was going to happen again," Patterson said.

J.W. Ledford Jr. told police he stabbed his neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston, after an argument on the way to the grocery store.

Ledford admitted to hiding the doctor's body and robbing his wife at knifepoint.

"It was really big around here and the doctor was well known, so, and there were people who knew both families, so, it was a very difficult time," Lorri Harrison of The Chatsworth Times said.

Harrison has been following the story for more than two decades.

She was chosen to be one of five media representatives by the state to be at the execution.

Harrison will also act as a media monitor to relay info after it is done. This is her first execution that she will witness.

It's not clear if any family members will be there.

"It is our story to tell. It's our story to put in the history books and that is why I feel I should be down there," Harrison said.

She remembers the first few hours following Dr. Johnston's death and the impact it had on this small community.

"I think it took a long time for people to process what had happened and who was involved," Harrison said.

A Murray County jury found Ledford guilty of murder and other crimes that same year.

He's been sitting on death row at a state prison in Jackson ever since.

Neighbors said his execution will give the community peace of mind.

"Because they know he ain't coming back here," Patterson said.

Ledford asked the state parole board to spare his life, saying he had a bad childhood that led him down this path. The board denied his request.

Dr. Johnston's family and Ledford's attorney did not want to comment ahead of the execution.


PREVIOUS STORY: ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia is preparing to execute its first inmate this year, a man convicted of killing a 73-year-old neighbor.

J.W. Ledford Jr. is scheduled to be put to death Tuesday at a state prison in Jackson. The 45-year-old inmate was convicted of murder in the January 1992 stabbing death of Dr. Harry Johnston near his home in Murray County, northwest Georgia.

Ledford told police he stabbed Johnston during an argument and then hid Johnston's body and robbed Johnston's wife at knifepoint.

Ledford's attorneys have argued that execution by Georgia's lethal injection drug would likely to cause the inmate extreme pain in violation of his constitutional rights. They have suggested using a firing squad instead, but that's not allowed under Georgia law.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


PREVIOUS STORY: ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia's parole board has declined to spare the life of a death row inmate who's scheduled for execution Tuesday.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles reached its decision Monday after holding a hearing to hear arguments for and against clemency for J.W. Ledford Jr.

Ledford, now 45, was convicted of murder in the January 1992 stabbing death of his neighbor, 73-year-old Dr. Harry Johnston, near his home in northwest Georgia.

The parole board is the only authority in Georgia with power to commute a death sentence. The board didn't give a reason for denying clemency, which is standard.

Ledford's lawyers had asked the parole board to spare his life, citing a rough childhood, substance abuse from an early age and intellectual disability.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


PREVIOUS STORY: BY TRACY CONNOR, NBC News

(NBC News) - A Georgia man convicted of murdering the doctor who delivered him into the world is pressing last-minute appeals on the eve of his execution, arguing a firing squad would be a more humane way to die than the lethal injection the state has planned.

Late last week, a federal judge shot down J.W. "Boy" Ledford Jr.'s bid to postpone his execution, finding he failed to show a syringe of pentobarbital would lead to an excruciating death and chiding him for waiting until days before the execution to make his claim.

Now Ledford — on death row for the 1992 stabbing death of Dr. Harry Johnston — has asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for a reprieve.

Much of the debate about execution drugs across the nation has centered on midazolam, a sedative that has been used in several lethal injections that did not go as planned.

Georgia plans to use pentobarbital, seen as a more reliable drug, to induce unconsciousness and then death. But the inmate's lawyers argued that because he has been taking a prescription drug to treat nerve pain for years, the pentobarbital won't work as intended.

"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," they wrote in court papers.

Court rulings require prisoners challenging one execution method to offer an alternative, and Ledford suggested a firing squad, even though Georgia law doesn't include that as a method of execution.

The state offered analysis from its own expert, who said the amount of pentobarbital in the injection "is more than sufficient" to cause death without pain regardless of Ledford's past use of a nerve drug.

Ledford, 45, also has asked the state parole board for clemency — citing a horrific childhood in an abusive home, early exposure to drugs and alcohol, an allegedly low IQ, and his remorse.

"He does not try to hide away from the harm he caused and is open with anyone he knows about the pain and about his sadness for the family," his attorneys wrote in the clemency application.

"His son says that when he finally asked his father if he did what they said, his father looked him straight in the eye and said, yes, and that he was sorry and when you take a man's life you can never give it back."

Ledford killed Johnston after the doctor gave him a ride; the victim was nearly decapitated. He then went to the doctor's home and tied up and robbed his wife; she has since died.

"I've seen the pictures," said Conasauga District Attorney Bert Poston, who presented the state's case for execution to the parole board.

"I've been doing this for 25 years and I've handled a lot of murder cases and I can't think of many that come close."

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