Georgia man's death sentence commuted a day before scheduled execution

ATLANTA Wed Jul 9, 2014 9:53pm EDT

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - The day before he was due to die by lethal injection, a man on Georgia's death row was granted clemency and his sentence commuted to life without parole on Wednesday by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Tommy Lee Waldrip, 68, was due to be executed on Thursday evening for the 1991 shooting death of a man who had been scheduled to testify against his son in an armed robbery trial.

It was the fifth death sentence commuted by the Parole Board since 2002, and the first since April 2012.

The board typically does not cite reasons for its decision. "The board members vote individually and confidentially," parole board spokesman Steve Hayes said.

Age could have been a factor in the decision as Waldrip would have been the oldest person to be executed in Georgia since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Waldrip shot Keith Evans, then beat him to death and set his truck on fire, according to trial testimony. Evans had worked as a clerk in the store Waldrip’s son had allegedly robbed.

Waldrip lost an appeal earlier this week seeking to halt his execution by arguing that a new Georgia law allowing the state to keep the source of its lethal injection drugs secret would result in what his lawyers called “gratuitous pain and suffering."

Waldrip’s attorneys appealed the decision to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Waldrip would have been the second person executed in Georgia this year.

(Writing by David Adams; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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