published Friday, June 24th, 2011

Georgia executes inmate convicted of murder

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JACKSON, Ga. — A Georgia man convicted of killing an elderly Savannah woman more than three decades ago was executed Thursday night.

Roy Willard Blankenship was put to death by injection at the state prison in Jackson after state and federal courts turned down his appeals. The 56-year-old was pronounced dead at 8:37 p.m. He grimaced throughout the procedure.

Blankenship was the first person put to death in Georgia using the sedative pentobarbital as part of the three-drug execution combination, and his lawyers claimed the drug was unsafe and unreliable. But state and federal courts rejected their appeals.

He was executed for the 1978 murder of Sarah Mims Bowen, who died of heart failure after she was raped in her Savannah apartment.

Georgia joins a growing number of states that have begun using pentobarbital in executions. Many of the nation’s 34 death penalty states switched to pentobarbital or began considering a switch after Hospira Inc., the sole manufacturer of sodium thiopental in the U.S., said in January it would no longer make the drug.

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