Execution Date Set for Marcus Ray Johnson, Convicted of Murder
An execution date for Marcus Ray Johnson has been set for November 19, 2015. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens offers the following information in the case against Marcus Ray Johnson for the 1994 murder of Angela Sizemore:
Marcus Ray Johnson’s direct appeal proceedings and his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings have been concluded. Accordingly, on November 2, 2015, the Superior Court of Dougherty County issued an order setting a seven-day period of time during which the execution of Marcus Ray Johnson may take place. The period of time ordered by the Superior Court will last from noon on November 19, 2015, to noon on November 26, 2015. The execution has been set for Thursday evening, November 19, 2015.
Johnson’s Crimes (1994)
The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:
The evidence adduced at trial shows that the victim, Angela Sizemore, met Johnson in a west Albany bar called Fundamentals between 12:30 and 1:30 a.m. on March 24, 1994. Ms. Sizemore had been to a memorial service for an acquaintance the previous day, and she had been drinking so heavily the bar had stopped serving her. Johnson was wearing a black leather jacket, jeans, black biker boots, and a distinctive turquoise ring. According to a witness, Johnson was angry and frustrated because another woman had spurned his advances earlier in the evening. The bar owner and its security officer (who both personally knew Johnson) testified that they saw Johnson and Ms. Sizemore kissing and behaving amorously. Johnson and Ms. Sizemore left Fundamentals together; the bartender handed Ms. Sizemore’s car keys directly to Johnson. They were seen walking towards Sixteenth Avenue.
At approximately 8:00 a.m. on March 24, 1994, a man walking his dog found Ms. Sizemore’s white Suburban parked behind an apartment complex in east Albany, on the other side of town from Fundamentals. Ms. Sizemore’s body was lying across the front passenger seat. She had been cut and stabbed 41 times with a small, dull knife, and she had bruises and marks from being hit and dragged. The fatal wounds were six stab wounds to the heart. The medical examiner also discovered that a foreign object had been inserted into the victim’s vagina and anus; the object had ruptured the wall of the vagina and lacerated the rectum. He testified that she was alive during the stabbing and genital mutilation.
Four people testified that they saw Johnson about an hour before the body was found. Two witnesses testified that they saw him walk from the area where the victim’s Suburban was parked through an apartment complex to a bus stop. He boarded a bus and asked if the bus would take him to the Monkey Palace (a bar where Johnson worked) in west Albany. Three witnesses, including the bus driver, identified Johnson as being on the bus (one of the witnesses who saw Johnson walk through the apartment complex boarded the same bus as he did). Two witnesses stated that their attention was drawn to Johnson because that area of Albany is predominantly African-American, and it was extremely unusual to see a Caucasian there at that time of day. All the witnesses testified that Johnson’s clothes were soiled with dirt or a substance they had assumed to be red clay. The witnesses gave similar descriptions of his clothing; in court, two witnesses who sat near Johnson on the bus identified his jacket, boots and distinctive turquoise ring.
The police determined that Ms. Sizemore was murdered in a vacant lot near Sixteenth Avenue in west Albany. Present in the lot were bloodstains, scuff marks, drag marks, and a pecan branch with blood and tissue on one end. The medical examiner testified that this branch was consistent with the object used to mutilate the victim’s vagina. The vacant lot is about two blocks from Fundamentals and about half a block from the house where Johnson lived with his mother.
A friend of Johnson testified that after he called her early on March 24, she picked him up at his house at 9:30 a.m. and took him to her home, where he slept on her couch for several hours. Johnson then told her he wanted to take a bus to Tennessee and that he needed her to go to the Monkey Palace to pick up some money he was owed. At his request, she dropped him off near a church while she went to get the money. The police were waiting for Johnson to show up, and they returned with the friend and arrested Johnson. Before they told him why they were arresting him, he blurted, "I’m Marcus Ray Johnson. I'm the person you’re looking for."
DNA testing revealed the presence of the victim’s blood on Johnson’s leather jacket. Johnson had a pocketknife that was consistent with the knife wounds on the victim’s body. He had scratches on his hands, arms, and neck. In a statement, Johnson said he and the victim had sex in the vacant lot and he "kind of lost it." According to Johnson, the victim became angry because he did not want to "snuggle" after sex and he punched her in the face. He stated he "hit her hard" and then walked away, and he does not remember anything else until he woke up after daybreak in his front yard. He said, "I didn’t kill her intentionally if I did kill her."
Johnson v. State, 271 Ga. 375-377 (1999).
The Trial and Direct Appeal (1994-2000)
On April 5, 1998, following a jury trial, Johnson was convicted of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, rape, and aggravated battery. The jury’s recommendation of a death sentence was returned on April 7, 1998. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Johnson’s convictions and death sentence on July 6, 1999. Johnson v. State, 271 Ga. 375 (1999). The United States Supreme Court denied Johnson’s request to appeal on February 22, 2000. Johnson v. Georgia, 528 U.S. 1172 (2000).
State Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2000-2006)
Johnson, represented by the Georgia Resource Center, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia on June 2, 2000. An evidentiary hearing was held on June 24-26, 2002. On January 7, 2004, the court entered an order denying Johnson relief. The Georgia Supreme Court denied Johnson’s appeal on July 11, 2005, and the United States Supreme Court denied Johnson’s request to appeal on April 3, 2006. Johnson v. Terry, 547 U.S. 1059 (2006).
Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2006-2011)
Johnson, represented by the Georgia Resource Center, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on June 7, 2006. On September 30, 2009, the district court denied Johnson federal habeas corpus relief.
Johnson’s case was appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010. The case was orally argued before the Eleventh Circuit on July 29, 2010. On August 23, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit denied relief. Johnson v. Upton, 615 F.3d 1318 (11th Cir. 2010). Johnson requested to appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which was denied June 20, 2011. Johnson v. Upton, 131 S.Ct. 3041 (2011).
Previously Scheduled Execution
Johnson’s first scheduled execution was originally set for October 5, 2011. On October 4, 2011, Johnson’s execution was stayed pending post-conviction DNA testing and a decision on his extraordinary motion for new trial. After three years of testing, review by four experts, and two evidentiary hearings, Johnson failed to present any evidence to prevail on his motion. An order was entered in the Superior Court of Dougherty County on April 20, 2015, denying Johnson’s extraordinary motion for new trial.