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May 24 2008 | UNITED STATES

Georgia/USA

Two hours before his scheduled execution the death sentence of Samuel Crowe was commuted

 
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CNN

Georgia man's death sentence changed to life in prison

Two hours before his scheduled execution Thursday, the Georgia  Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted the death sentence of Samuel David  Crowe, his lawyer said.
Crowe was convicted in 1988 of murdering Joseph V. Pala, the retail manager  at Wicks Lumber Company in Douglas County. Crowe admitted to the crime.
The board's ruling means Crowe's sentence will be changed to life without  the possibility of parole. The board did not give a reason for its decision.
When attorney Ann Fort called Crowe with the news, he was quiet.
"He was really shocked and relieved but very somber about it. He takes very  seriously the deep harm that he caused when he committed this crime," she  said.
Crowe had a cocaine habit that his attorney says he kicked in prison. He  spent his time behind bars counseling other inmates, teaching some of them  to read and writing to people outside of prison who had drug habits. "He  didn't want them to go down the path he did," Fort said.
As for the Pala family, they are devastated. The Atlanta  Journal-Constitution reported that Pala's widow, Fran Pala, and his  daughter, Lisa Pala-Hansen, were too upset to address the parole board. A  representative spoke to the board on their behalf, the newspaper said.
Crowe had been scheduled to be executed by injection at 7 p.m. ET Thursday  at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, 45 minutes south  of Atlanta.
He would have been the 19th inmate in Georgia executed by injection.
William Earl Lynd was executed by injection the first week in May. He was  the first inmate to die in the state since September, when the U.S. Supreme  Court agreed to consider whether the three-drug combination represented  cruel and unusual punishment.
Lynd was convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend in 1988.
The U.S. Supreme Court had effectively halted all executions in the country  last September, when it agreed to consider whether the three-drug  combination used by most states violated the constitutional ban on cruel and  unusual punishment.
Death penalty opponents have argued that if inmates are not given enough  anesthetic, they could be conscious enough to suffer excruciating pain  without being able to express it because of the paralyzer.
Their claims are supported by medical studies.
Of the 24 death sentences the Georgia board has considered, Crowe's is the  third it has commuted.
Also this week, Mississippi executed murderer Earl Wesley Berry by lethal  injection. Berry confessed to abducting Mary Bounds in 1987, beating her to  death and then dumping her body in a rural road. The courts rejected Berry's  attorneys' arguments that he should be spared because he was mentally  retarded.

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