Execution Date Set for Robert Earl Butts, Convicted of Murder
ATLANTA, GA – An execution date for Robert Earl Butts has been set for May 3, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. Attorney General Chris Carr offers the following information in the case against Robert Earl Butts for the 1996 murder of Donovan Corey Parks.
On April 16, 2018, the Superior Court of Baldwin County filed an order setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Robert Earl Butts may occur to begin at noon, May 3, 2018 and ending seven days later at noon on May 10, 2018. Butts has concluded his direct appeal proceedings and his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.
Butts’s Crime (March 28, 1996)
The Georgia Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:
The evidence adduced at trial showed that on the night of March 28, 1996, Butts and Marion Wilson, Jr., drove in Butts's automobile to a local Wal-Mart store and began searching for a victim. Butts entered the store wearing a coat, under which he likely concealed the murder weapon. A witness observed Butts and Wilson standing behind Donovan Corey Parks in a checkout line. The cashier for that checkout line also remembered Butts being in her line. The store's receipts showed that Butts purchased a pack of chewing gum immediately after Parks made his purchase of pet supplies.
A witness overheard Butts asking Parks for a ride. After Parks moved items in his automobile to make room for Butts and Wilson, Butts sat in the front passenger seat and Wilson sat in the back seat behind Parks. According to a witness to whom Butts confessed, Butts revealed the shotgun a short distance away, and Parks was ordered to stop the automobile. Wilson dragged Parks out of the automobile by his tie and ordered him to lie face down on the pavement. Butts then fired one fatal shot to the back of Parks's head with the shotgun. Witnesses nearby heard the shot, believing it to be a backfiring vehicle.
After murdering Parks, Butts and Wilson drove to a service station in Gray, Georgia, where they refueled Parks's automobile and where
Wilson was filmed by the service station's security camera. Butts and Wilson then drove to Atlanta in an unsuccessful attempt to exchange Parks's automobile for money at a "chop shop." The pair purchased two cans of gasoline, drove to a remote location in Macon, Georgia, and set fire to Parks's automobile. They then walked to a nearby public phone, where Butts called his uncle and arranged a ride for himself and Wilson back to the Wal-Mart to retrieve Butts's automobile.
Investigators had recorded the license plate numbers of the vehicles parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot on the night of the murder, and Butts's automobile was among them. A shotgun loaded with an uncommon type of ammunition was found under Wilson's bed during a search, and a witness testified that Butts had given the weapon to Wilson to hold temporarily. Two of Butts's former jail mates testified that he had admitted to being the triggerman in the murder.
Butts v. State, 273 Ga. 760, 761-762 (2001).
Butts was indicted in the Superior Court of Baldwin County, Georgia for malice murder, felony murder, armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and possession of a sawed-off shotgun. Butts was convicted as charged in the indictment and sentenced to death on November 21, 1998. Thereafter, Butts filed a motion for new trial, which was denied on August 18, 1999.
Remand Proceedings (2000)
Butts appealed his convictions and sentences to the Georgia Supreme Court. On February 25, 2000, the Georgia Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for a hearing on whether Butts was denied the effective assistance of counsel. A hearing was held on August 22, 2000. On October 4, 2000, the trial court entered an order denying Petitioner’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Direct Appeal (2001-2002)
Butts’s case was again appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Butts’s convictions and death sentence on April 30, 2001. Butts v. State, 273 Ga. 760 (2001). The United States Supreme Court denied Butts’s request to appeal on January 7, 2002. Butts v. Georgia, 534 U.S. 1086 (2002), rehearing denied, Butts v. Georgia, 535 U.S. 922 (2002).
State Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2002-2013)
Butts filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Superior Court of Butts County, Georgia on August 30, 2002. An evidentiary hearing was held on September 11-13, 2007. On April 11, 2011, the state habeas corpus court entered an order denying Butts state habeas relief. The Georgia Supreme Court denied Butts’s appeal on January 22, 2013.
Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings (2013-2018)
Butts filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on May 31, 2013. On October 16, 2015, the district court denied Butts federal habeas relief. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of relief on March 9, 2017. Butts v. Warden, Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison, 850 F.3d 1201 (11th Cir. 2017). The United States Supreme Court denied Butts’s request to appeal on January 22, 2018. Butts v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 925 (2018).