As the state prepares for the execution of death row inmate Marcus Wellons, the state’s top official, Governor Nathan Deal has no role in granting or denying clemency pleas.
Georgia is one of just five states in the nation that doesn’t allow its governor to have a role in determining whether a death row inmate should be granted clemency. The State Board of Pardons and Paroles makes that decision.
Donald E. Wilkes, professor emeritus of the University of Georgia law school, says that’s due to a history of political corruption.
“Some of the governors, especially Gene Talmadge, were notoriously selling pardons and paroles,” said Wilkes. “And to prevent that, in 1943 the Georgia constitution was amended to take away all of the pardoning, parole and clemency powers of the governor.”
The State Board refused to grant clemency to Marcus Wellons on Monday.
Wilkes says the Board rarely grants clemency in death penalty cases.
“The Board of Pardons and Paroles consists of law enforcement officials or law and order legislators who are stacked in favor of the death penalty and long terms of imprisonment. And they reflect those views in their decision.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that clemency officials are not required to announce why they refuse to grant clemency in death row cases. The board gave no reason for its decision in the Wellons case.
“Clemency officials, pardons officials are beyond the reach of judicial review, unless there is some patent racism or sexism reflected by what they say or do,” said Wilkes. “And they’re not required to give any reasons for denying clemency.”
Tuesday, the death row inmate’s lawyers filed an emergency appeal with 11th U.S. Circuit Court. So far, that appeal has done nothing to stop clock. Wellons is scheduled to be executed at Tuesday, June 17 at 7 p.m.