Georgia man to be put to death for 1982 murder of friend

ATLANTA A man convicted of beating a friend to death with a stick during a drunken fight over a woman 34 years ago is scheduled to be executed in Georgia on Thursday.

John Wayne Conner, 60, admitted killing J.T. White on Jan. 9, 1982 after White said he wanted to have sex with Conner’s girlfriend, according to court documents.

The two men, both in their 20s at the time, had been drinking heavily and smoked marijuana earlier that night in the southern Georgia town of Milan, according to a court synopsis of the case.

“There was a stick right there at me, and I grabbed it and went to beating him with it,” Conner told police, the synopsis said.

Conner would be the 16th person executed in the United States this year and the sixth in Georgia, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center. He is slated to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. EDT at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.

On Wednesday, Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Conner’s request for clemency.

The inmate’s lawyers had asked the board to commute his punishment to life in prison, noting in their petition that he “grew up in a home where vicious physical assaults, incest, sexual abuse and alcoholism were the norm.”

The jury that convicted Conner never heard any of that, the lawyers said. The 26-year-old attorney who represented him at trial had no experience in death penalty cases and presented no evidence of Conner’s traumatic childhood or mental disability, according to the parole board petition.

Conner now spends his spare time painting and reading the Bible, his attorneys said in the petition.

He is remorseful for killing White, as well as another man, Jesse Smyth, whose murder he pleaded guilty to in 1982 after his arrest in the White case.

Conner was sentenced to life in prison for Smyth’s murder, prosecutors said.

During decades of appeals, Conner’s lawyers have argued that he should be spared from execution because he is mentally disabled, but the courts refused to overturn his sentence.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Chizu Nomiyama)

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