March 15, 2018 / 10:15 AM / a year ago

Alabama executes murderer; Georgia puts 'stocking strangler' to death

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Alabama on Thursday executed a 50-year-old man convicted for the kidnapping and murder of a woman in 2000, and Georgia put to death a man dubbed the “stocking strangler.”

Death row inmate Carlton Gary in Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia, U.S., is seen in this Georgia Department of Corrections photo obtained on March 14, 2018. Georgia Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

Carlton Gary, 67, was convicted of a series of murders in which he chocked victims with panty hose in Columbus, Georgia.

Gary was convicted in the murders of Florence Scheible, Martha Thurmond and Kathleen Woodruff in Columbus in 1977 and 1978. He was also linked to the murder of four other women in a two-year crime spree, police said.

But Gary’s lawyers say evidence uncovered since his conviction raised serious doubts about the prosecution’s case against him.

“Mr. Gary is not the Columbus Stocking Strangler,” his lawyers wrote in their March 9 appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hours before the planned execution, they asked for a halt to the proceedings to allow for DNA testing.

Gary was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. ET, Georgia prison officials said.

The killings in Columbus stopped in 1978 but Gary was not arrested until 1984 when he was linked to a gun stolen in the home of one of the victims. Prosecutors said they had a confession from Gary and fingerprint evidence that implicated him in the crimes.

DNA testing of body fluids from crime scenes was not available at the time and subsequent testing clears Gary, his lawyers said.

In neighboring Alabama, Michael Eggers was put to death by lethal injection without complications at 7:29 p.m. CDT, state prison spokesman Bob Horton said.

“Mr. Eggers was convicted of brutally beating and then murdering Mrs. Francis Murray, who was simply trying to help him,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement after the execution.

It was the first execution in Alabama since a botched lethal injection a few weeks ago.

The two men, neither of whom gave a final statement, were the fifth and sixth to be executed in the United States this year. Their executions brought to 1,471 the number of inmates put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

Alabama’s death chamber protocols have come under a federal court review after it aborted its attempt on Feb. 22 to execute Doyle Hamm, 61, a convicted murderer with terminal cancer and severely compromised veins.

After more than 10 attempts to place a needle, the execution was called off.

Reporting by David Beasley in Atlanta and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by James Dalgleish and Lisa Shumaker

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