Execution date for US drug kingpin postponed

CNN Staff • Updated 3 January 2018 ( CNN ) — The US State Department has told CNN that it is monitoring developments in Georgia after the latest execution date was postponed. “We are…

Execution date for US drug kingpin postponed

CNN Staff • Updated 3 January 2018

( CNN ) — The US State Department has told CNN that it is monitoring developments in Georgia after the latest execution date was postponed.

“We are aware of reports of an execution date delay,” read a State Department statement. “We note that this is a law enforcement matter and have no further comment.”

More than a dozen family members of victims killed by drug dealer Julio Jones, 53, had earlier called on the Georgia governor to commute his death sentence, saying that their memories have been irreparably damaged.

His execution was delayed by a state governor on Thursday amid opposition from US Department of Justice officials.

“We are deeply troubled by the Georgia Department of Corrections’ plan to execute Julio Jones on January 3, 2018,” said a Justice Department official.

“The risk that such an execution would be carried out in a manner inconsistent with international standards of decency cannot be mitigated by any reprieve that may be granted.”

Their calls were also echoed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who issued a statement “expressing grave concerns” about the execution date.

“An innocent man has been convicted and sentenced to death. Today’s decision is a delay, not a pardon,” said Alison Parker, staff attorney at the ACLU of Georgia, in a statement.

“Please spare Julio Jones’ life and listen to the voices of those who stood up for justice on behalf of the victims and their families,” she said.

Jones, 53, was convicted of trafficking drugs over the course of two years, according to court documents.

Jones was sentenced to death in July 1989 and given a clemency hearing in November 2012, which he won.

But a U.S. Appeals Court in November 2016 reversed the ruling of a U.S. District Court that put Jones’ execution on hold in Georgia.

“In the eyes of the law, if Jones intentionally tried to kill anyone, this was more than a mere mistake or a failing on his part,” the appeals court said, according to an interview in Rolling Stone magazine.

The date for the execution was set in August, but state officials postponed it after family members of the crime victims signed a public letter saying Jones was not fit to be executed.

Jones is reportedly refusing all medical treatment for obesity and has been jailed in solitary confinement for nearly two months.

Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Amy Childress said Thursday that death row inmates are “guaranteed an execution date in a court of law that compels their execution.”

“Cases that are pending in appeals will remain on hold pending a court decision in that case,” Childress said in an emailed statement.

“The date was extended because the person on death row is obese and cannot perform basic bodily functions such as urinating and defecating, which poses special dangers to corrections staff while he waits to be executed.”

It is not clear why a private medical patient was sentenced to death in the first place. But Jones’ case may draw attention to a government policy of imposing the death penalty on offenders with medical conditions.

In his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones’ lawyers say he has lost 65 percent of his bone mass, kidney stones, diabetes, two heart attacks and trouble breathing because of obesity.

“The state has defended this pain and suffering as the punishment that the defendant, by his sheer failure to accept personal responsibility for his actions, was forced to inflict on his victims,” said a legal brief by Jones’ lawyers filed in December.

The ACLU and the Georgia NAACP wrote to Governor Nathan Deal on Wednesday to ask him to grant clemency for Jones, while the families of victims said that Jones is not “fit to live.”

“Jones told his girlfriend as she lay dying in a hospital bed that she did not have to die,” the families wrote in a document submitted to the governor.

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