Kenneth Fults, a man convicted of killing a woman during a crime (which spanned over a week during 1996), became the fourth person to be executed in Georgia this year.
Kenneth Fults was given an injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson and was pronounced dead at 7:37 p.m., said Warden Bruce Chatman.
The 47-year-old inmate had pleaded guilty to killing a neighbor, 19-year-old Cathy Bounds, in conjunction with a burglary in January 1996, and a jury sentenced him to death.
Fults’ attorneys had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to acknowledge the signs of racial bias in the verdict. The request presented to Justice Clarence Thomas on behalf of the court was denied, the court said in a statement earlier Tuesday without explaining the decision. On Monday, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant clemency for Fults.
Prosecutors have said Fults killed Bounds while executing other crimes; one of which was burglary. After his unsuccessful attempts to kill his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend with one of the stolen guns, Fults broke into the trailer next to his, where Bounds lived with her boyfriend.
Bounds, who was home alone, pleaded for her life and offered him the rings on her fingers, but Fults forced her into the bedroom, wrapped electrical tape around her head, put her face-down on the bed, put a pillow over her head and shot her five times in the back of the head, prosecutors had claimed.
Fults’ lawyers said in a clemency petition that their client had an harsh upbringing–with neglect and abuse as the defining characteristics. “Mr. Fults, the man, committed a terrible, tragic act when he killed Cathy Bounds,” they wrote. “But before the man existed, there was an innocent, vulnerable child in his place. And that child, Kenny, fell through the cracks.”
They also noted that the verdict was perhaps influenced by the racial bias of the judge as well as the barely present defense attorney who failed to inform the jury of any mitigating evidence. In their filing with the Supreme Court, Fults’ lawyers argued his death sentence was unconstitutional because one of the jurors who imposed it was motivated by racial prejudice.During jury selection for Fults’ trial in 1997, juror Thomas Buffington, who was white, told the judge and lawyers on both sides that racial bias was not present in this case.
An investigator working with Fults’ lawyers eight years later spoke to Buffington about his jury service. Buffington, who was 79 at the time of the interview and has since died, twice used a racial slur when talking about Fults, who is black.”Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that’s what that (N-word) deserved,” Buffington said, according to the signed, April 12, 2005, affidavit in the court record.
State and federal courts have refused to acknowledge any sign of racial bias found in the case, mostly because of procedural reasons that have to do with when the argument was first raised. The U.S. Supreme court in October declined to take up the issue on appeal. Fults’ lawyers asked the high court to take the case directly, not as an appeal. They argued it was very similar to another case the court agreed last week to hear. The state claimed in a court filing Monday that this case did not demonstrate the “exceptional circumstances” required for the Supreme Court to discuss it. On Tuesday, Fults had visits with 17 relatives, a friend and an attorney and two paralegals, officials said.