A man convicted of murder has been executed in the US despite one of the jurors at his trial admitting they were motivated by a racial bias.
Kenneth Fults was given a lethal injection of pentobarbital on Tuesday at a state prison in Jackson, Georgia.
The 47-year-old pleaded guilty to shooting 19-year-old Cathy Bounds during a burglary in 1996 and was sentenced to death by a jury in 1997.
In 2005, eight years after Fults’ sentencing, one of the jurors signed a sworn statement saying: “I don’t know if he ever killed anybody, but that n***** got just what should have happened.
“Once he pleaded guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what that n***** deserved.”
The juror was asked if he had any racial prejudices before he was allowed to serve on the jury, and said no.
The US Supreme Court rejected a last minute petition by Fults’ lawyer, which included the juror's comments, to stay the execution on Tuesday. The Georgia Pardons and Parole had previously denied Fults’ petition for clemency on Monday.
In addition to the juror's admittance of racial bias, the petition also included concerns from three jurors about the fairness of Fults' trial after they allegedly saw his attorney sleeping during the sentencing trial.
“Mr Fults’s lawyer… was uninterested in what was happening… I saw him fall asleep repeatedly during the trial,’ said one of the jurors in a signed affidavit.
The petition describes Fults, a former gang member, as “the kid who fell through the cracks,” with an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother who tried to abort him by drinking turpentine, an absent father and an abusive stepfather.
Fults’ lawyers also said he had an intellectual disability that kept him from acting properly and “functions in the lowest one per cent of the population”. They say his lawyer at the time of his sentencing failed to give full information about Fults' childhood.
Another former juror said: “I don’t believe he had a fair trial. Mr Fults’s current lawyers have told me about how Mr Fults was neglected and abandoned as a child and that he is mentally retarded. [His lawyer] didn’t bring this up at trial and he should have, so that we would have known more about Mr Fults before we talked about whether to give him the death penalty.”
Amnesty International appealed to stop Fults’ execution. Kerry Moscogiuri, Amnesty UK’s director of campaigns and communications, told the Independent: “Kenneth Fults’ case is riddled with racism and incompetence.
“His case is nothing short of a tragedy – and is just the latest to highlight how fundamentally wrong the death penalty is.
“No matter what the crime, who the alleged criminal is, or the method proposed to execute them – we will always stand against it.”
Fults broke into Ms Bounds' trailer and wrapped more than six feet of electrical tape around her head in January 1996. He forced her into a bedroom and placed her face down on her bed, shooting her five times in the back of the head, court documents said.
The murder followed a week-long crime spree during which Fults tried to kill his former girlfriend’s new boyfriend with a handgun stolen in an earlier burglary, according to court documents.
Fults is the fourth person to be executed in Georgia this year and the 12th in the US.
Additional reporting by agencies
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