**Updated February 8, 2010**
Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker offers the following information in the case against Melbert Ray Ford, who is currently scheduled to be executed during an execution window starting at noon on February 23, 2010 and ending at noon on March 2, 2010 for the March 6, 1986 murder of his ex-girlfriend and her 11 year old niece.
On February 3, 2010, the Superior Court of Newton County filed an order, setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Melbert Ray Ford may occur to begin at noon, February 23, 2010, and ending seven days later at noon on March 2, 2010. On February 8, 2010, the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, who under state law sets the specific date and time for the execution, set the specific date and time for the execution as 7:00pm on February 23, 2010. Ford has concluded his direct appeal proceedings and his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.
The Georgia Supreme Court noted that Ford was found guilty of “murdering his former female companion, Martha Chapman Matich, and her 11-year-old niece, Lisa Chapman, and of committing the offenses of armed robbery, burglary, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.” Ford v. State, 257 Ga. 461, 360 S.E.2d 258 (1987). “He was sentenced to death on each of the murder convictions.” Id. The Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:
After his relationship with Martha Matich broke up, Ford began harassing her by telephone. Two weeks prior to her death, Ford told a friend of his that he "was going to blow her . . . brains out." The day before her death, Ford unsuccessfully tried to convince a friend to drive him to the convenience store where Matich worked. Ford told the friend that he planned to rob the store and work revenge upon Matich by killing her.
On March 6, 1986, Ford talked to several people about robbing the store. He told one that he intended to kidnap Ms. Matich, take her into the woods, make her beg, and then shoot her in the forehead. Ford tried to talk another into helping him with his robbery (Ford had no car). When this effort failed, Ford responded that "there wasn't anybody crazy around here anymore."
Finally, Ford met 19-year-old Roger Turner, who was out of a job and nearly out of money. By plying him with alcohol, and promising him that they could easily acquire eight thousand dollars, Ford persuaded Turner to help him.
They drove in Turner’s car to Chapman’s Grocery, arriving just after closing time. Ford shot away the lower half of the locked and barred glass door and entered the store. Turner, waiting in the car, heard screams and gunshots. Then Ford ran from the store to the car, carrying a bag of money.
At 10:20 p.m., the store’s burglar alarm sounded. A Newton County sheriff’s deputy arrived at 10:27 p.m. Ms. Matich was lying dead behind the counter, shot three times. Lisa Chapman was discovered in the bathroom, shot in the head but still alive, sitting on a bucket, bleeding from the head, and having convulsions. She could answer no questions. She died later.
Ford and Turner were arrested the next day. Turner confessed first and was brought into Ford’s interrogation room to state to Ford that he had told the truth. Ford told him not to worry, that Turner was not involved in the murders. Afterwards, Ford told his interrogators that the shooting began after Martha Matich pushed the alarm button. He stated that, had he worn a mask, it would not have happened.
Ford claimed at trial that he was too drunk to know what was happening, and that it was Turner who entered the store and killed the victims.
Ford v. State, 257 Ga. at 461-62.
The Trial (1986)
Ford was indicted in the Superior Court of Newton County, Georgia on March 11, 1986, for the murders of Martha Chapman Matich and Lisa Chapman and armed robbery, burglary and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony. On October 24, 1986, following a jury trial, Ford was convicted as charged in the indictment. The jury then returned a sentence of death against Ford for each murder. He was sentenced to terms of years for the other crimes.
The Direct Appeal (1987-1988)
The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Ford’s convictions and sentences on September 24, 1987. Ford v. State, 257 Ga. 461, 360 S.E.2d 258 (1987). Ford filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on March 7, 1988. Ford v. Georgia, 485 U.S. 943 (1988).
First State Habeas Corpus Proceeding (1988-2001)
Ford, represented by Mary F. Radford, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia, on June 13, 1988. Ford filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus on September 4, 1992. An evidentiary hearing was held on September 14, 1992. On December 5, 1996, the state habeas corpus court entered an order denying Ford state habeas relief. Ford’s application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal filed in the Georgia Supreme Court was denied on September 29, 2000. Ford then filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on June 4, 2001. Ford v. Head, 532 U.S. 1068 (2001).
Second State Habeas Corpus Proceeding (2001-2002)
Ford, represented by Mary F. Radford, filed a second petition for habeas corpus relief in the Superior Court of Butts County on September 27, 2001. On October 23, 2001, the state habeas corpus court entered an order dismissing the second petition as successive. Thereafter, Ford filed an application for certificate of probable cause to appeal in the Georgia Supreme Court, which was denied on March 12, 2002.
Federal Habeas Corpus Proceeding (2001-2007)
Ford, represented by Brian Mendelsohn and Mary F. Radford, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, on September 28, 2001. Ford filed an amendment to his petition for writ of habeas corpus on March 11, 2002. A federal hearing was held in April 2004 on one issue. On May 11, 2007, the district court denied Ford federal habeas corpus relief. The district court denied a motion to alter and amend judgment on July 5, 2007. The district court granted in part Ford’s application for a certificate of appealability on September 28, 2007.
11th Circuit Court of Appeals (2007-2008)
The Eleventh Circuit denied Ford’s application for expansion of the certificate of appealability on October 31, 2007. The case was orally argued before the Eleventh Circuit on August 14, 2008. On October 27, 2008, the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion which denied relief. Ford v. Hall, 546 F.3d 1326 (11th Cir. 2008). Ford filed a petition for panel rehearing, which was denied on December 23, 2008.
United States Supreme Court (2009-2010)
Ford filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied January 25, 2010. Ford v. Hall, 2010 LEXIS 849 (Case No. 09-5407).