Georgia executes man for fatal beating in 1994

Georgia death row inmate Joshua Bishop is shown in this undated prison photo released Tuesday, March 29, 2016 by the Georgia Department of Corrections. The State Board of Pardons and Paroles announced that it will hear from advocates for Bishop on March 30, 2016. Bishop is scheduled to die the next day. Bishop was convicted of murder and armed robbery in the 1994 beating death of Leverett Morrison in Milledgeville, Ga. The parole board is the only entity in Georgia authorized to commute a death sentence. (Georgia Department of Corrections via AP)

JACKSON, Ga. (AP) — A man who was convicted of fatally beating another man to death after a night of drinking and drug use in 1994 was put to death late Thursday in Georgia.

Joshua Bishop, 41, received an injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson, and Warden Bruce Chatman announced his time of death as 9:27 p.m. Bishop was convicted in the June 1994 killing of Leverett Morrison in Milledgeville.

Bishop apologized to the people of Baldwin County and Morrison’s family.

“I’d like to also thank all the people who have stood by me,” he said.

He mouthed messages to several of his supporters who witnessed the execution, including at least one of his attorneys. He also appeared to pray.

Earlier Thursday, Bishop received visits from 13 people, including friends, clergy members and lawyers, and ate a specially requested last meal that included a barbecue sandwich and Brunswick stew.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles on Thursday denied his request for clemency after holding a hearing a day earlier. State courts and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeals and declined to halt the execution.

Bishop spent June 19, 1994, drinking and using drugs with Morrison and a third man, Mark Braxley, according to court records. The records show they drank at a bar that evening and then went to Braxley’s trailer, where they continued to drink and use drugs.

Morrison fell asleep and Braxley decided he wanted to take Morrison’s Jeep to visit his girlfriend and instructed Bishop to take his keys. Morrison woke up as Bishop was trying to take his keys from his pocket, and Bishop hit him over the head with a piece of a closet rod to knock him out, according to the court filings.

Bishop told investigators he and Braxley both beat Morrison and, once they realized he was dead, they dumped his body between two trash bins and burned his Jeep.

While in custody, Bishop told police he and Braxley also had killed another man, Ricky Willis, about two weeks earlier, also at Braxley’s trailer. Bishop told police he repeatedly punched Willis after Willis bragged he had sexually assaulted Bishop’s mother and then Braxley cut Willis’ throat, killing him.

Bishop and Braxley were both charged with murder and armed robbery in Morrison’s death. After a trial, a jury convicted Bishop and sentenced him to die. Braxley pleaded guilty and got life in prison with the possibility of parole.

While Bishop confessed to his involvement in both killings, his lawyers argue that Braxley, who was 36 at the time, was the instigator and exerted his influence over Bishop, who was 19.

Bishop’s lawyers also have said he had an extremely rough childhood, with a mother who constantly drank and used drugs and had a weakness for abusive men who beat her and her sons. He bounced between foster families and group homes and was homeless at times, they said.

In a clemency petition, Bishop’s lawyers also noted that he had taken responsibility and expressed remorse very quickly after Morrison’s death. They said he became a man of deep faith in prison and had a positive influence on fellow inmates and others.

Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee, whose office investigated the killings of Morrison and Willis, acknowledged that Bishop had had a tough home life but said the slayings were very violent and that he believes Bishop was the primary aggressor. Massee said he also met this week with three of Morrison’s children, who said they wanted Bishop to be executed.

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