Tonight’s Execution: Andrew Cook, Georgia

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Update #3:  Andrew Cook has been executed by the state of Georgia.

Update #2: The execution will proceed, as the U.S. Supreme Court has denied a stay of execution. 

Update: The execution of Andrew Cook is on hold, awaiting word from the U.S. Supreme Court on a last-minute appeal.

After a delay of more than four hours, Georgia carried out the second lethal injection of the evening (the first was in Texas), with an execution that has been off and on throughout the past few days.

Andy Cook, 38, was convicted in the 1995 killings of two Mercer University students, Grant Patrick Hendrickson and Michele Lee Cartagena. The pair were shot multiple times Jan. 3, 1995 while they sat in a car at Lake Julette in Monroe County. Cook did not know the victims and authorities say the killings were random.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Cook confessed to his father, a Macon FBI agent who ended up testifying at his son’s trial.”

The execution was put on hold Wednesday evening, but this afternoon news broke that it was back on for tonight, after the state Supreme Court denied a motion to delay it.

The Telegraph‘s Joe Kovac Jr. has an-easy-to-follow outline of the legal twists and turns Cook’s case has taken, so I’ll let him lay it out.

Earlier Thursday, the state Supreme Court took Cook’s case and that of Warren Lee Hill back from the state Court of Appeals.

Defense lawyers had contended that both executions should be stopped because the lethal injection drug pentobarbital was being dispensed without a prescription.

Lawyers for Cook and Hill, another prisoner slated for execution earlier this week, had filed appeals contending that the state is breaking the law by using pentobarbital during executions without a prescription. The Georgia Court of Appeals delayed both executions to review that challenge.

On Thursday, however, the state Supreme Court issued an order saying that it was taking the case back and would consider the requests to postpone the executions.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected Cook’s bid for clemency Wednesday, and his lawyers continued their legal fight to keep him from being put to death Thursday night.

Wednesday evening, the Georgia Court of Appeals temporarily halted his scheduled execution.

Word of that move came hours after Cook, 38, was denied clemency by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Following the Georgia Supreme Court’s ruling to deny Cook’s motion, Court Public Information Officer Jane Hansen told WGXA the motion was dismissed because it was not first filed and denied in the Monroe County Superior Court where Cook was originally sentenced.

His attorneys then asked justices to look at a different appeal, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution. From their article: “Now his lawyers are asking the justices to look at an appeal directly related to his execution, a different issue. They are asking for mercy because, they say, the 38-year-old Cook has changed and is remorseful for shooting to death Grant Patrick Hendrickson and his girlfriend, Michele Cartagena.” That appeal was ultimately denied.

Cook was scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. by lethal injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. It looked like the execution might proceed as planned, as a federal judge decided against blocking the execution.

However, a last-minute stay filed at 6 p.m. halted the execution until 10:30 p.m., as the U.S. Supreme Court mulled a stay of execution.

There were no other appeals pending or filed, and the execution was cleared to proceed.

The execution began at 11:08 p.m. Cook was declared dead at 11:22 p.m.

For his last meal, Cook requested steak, baked potato and potato wedges, fried shrimp, lemon meringue pie and soda.

On a related note, an article from Ed Pilkinton for The Guardian points out that Georgia will soon face a shortage of execution drugs, and in fact were scrambling to use some before their entire stock expires on March 1. The state has 17 vials of pentobarbital, enough for 6 executions, but will be unable to use all of it before it expires. From his report:

Georgia confirmed to the Guardian that its entire supply of pentobarbital expires on 1 March. The expiration date leaves the state in a quandary: it still has 94 men and one woman on death row, including Hill and Cook, but with no obvious means by which to execute them.

A spokeswoman for the department of corrections insisted that it anticipated “it will be able to obtain sufficient supplies of the drugs necessary to carry out the court ordered lethal injection process.” But just how that could be done is not obvious.

Georgia’s problem is not a unique one. Across the U.S., states have had to alter their lethal injection procedures after the makers of the drugs stopped producing them, saying they didn’t want their drugs used for executions. However, altering their procedures means having to write new protocols and get them approved, a lengthy process that often opens up avenues for death row inmates to file appeals contesting the injection procedures, thus delaying executions further.

For more on that, check out this Associated Press story.

Related Reading:

Cook’s Execution Back on After Georgia Supreme Court Denies Motion

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