ATLANTA — An execution date has been set for a Georgia man convicted of killing a woman he met in an Albany nightclub, Attorney General Sam Olens said in a news release Monday.
Marcus Ray Johnson is set to die Nov. 19 at the state prison in Jackson, Olens' office said. A Dougherty County judge had set an execution window that runs from noon on Nov. 19 to noon on Nov. 26.
Johnson was convicted in April 1998 for the March 1994 rape and murder of Angela Sizemore, but his lawyers maintain there is doubt about his guilt.
Sizemore and Johnson met at an Albany nightclub called Fundamentals the night of March 23, 1994 and witnesses spotted them kissing and drinking heavily. They were seen leaving the bar together early the next morning, walking toward another bar where Johnson had worked.
A man walking his dog discovered Sizemore's body the next day inside her white SUV parked behind an apartment complex. She had been stabbed 41 times with a small, dull knife and suffered severe internal injuries when she was sexually assaulted with a pecan tree branch, prosecutors said.
Police quickly focused on Johnson, and two witnesses told investigators they saw Johnson walking from the area where the victim's SUV was parked. He was arrested less than 24 hours after the killing.
Johnson told authorities he led Sizemore to a grassy vacant lot where they had consensual sex, and that he then "kind of lost it" and punched her in the face during an argument. But Johnson said he left immediately after the argument and headed home to collapse on his front yard, where he woke up the next morning.
DNA testing matched the victim's blood to Johnson's leather jacket, and authorities said his pocketknife matched the wounds discovered on her body. He also had scratches on his hands, arms and neck. But Johnson's lawyers say he didn't kill her. They say investigators never found her blood on his knife, and only trace amounts of blood on his jacket.
Johnson was previously scheduled to be executed on Oct. 5, 2011, but Dougherty County Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette halted the execution the day before after Johnson's defense team asked for more time to study a new box of physical evidence.
New DNA testing was done and evidentiary hearings were held, and on April 20, Lockette denied Johnson's lawyers' request for a new trial. His lawyers appealed that decision to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Johnson's lawyers argued in their filing with the state Supreme Court that there are "troubling inconsistencies" in the evidence presented at his trial that raise doubts about his guilt.
"Numerous pieces of physical evidence that do not fit with the state's theory at trial, coupled with unreliable eyewitness identifications all point to a different perpetrator (or perpetrators) having killed Ms. Sizemore," Johnson's lawyers wrote.
Johnson's lawyers argue there is no physical evidence that links him to Sizemore except for that which is consistent with his statement that they had sex and that he punched her in the nose. They also argue that there is no physical evidence linking him to any crime scene or to the SUV where her body was found.
The eyewitnesses used by the state to link Johnson to the site where Sizemore's body was found are highly unreliable and their testimony wouldn't withstand scrutiny now, "in light of what is now known about the fallibility of eyewitness identifications and recall," his lawyers wrote.
New evidence had also surfaced that Sizemore had sold a large quantity of marijuana the night she met Johnson and still had that money with her when she was killed, his lawyers wrote.
In his denial of the request for a new trial, Lockette says the new DNA testing failed to prove his innocence and that any new evidence presented would not likely lead to a different outcome at trial. The judge's order also says the eyewitnesses all gave very specific and consistent descriptions of the man they saw near the scene.
The Georgia Supreme Court on Aug. 19 declined to overturn Lockette's order.