Georgia carries out first execution of 2017

FILE - In this undated file photo released by the Georgia Department of Corrections, J.W. Ledford Jr., poses for a photo. Lawyers for Ledford, a Georgia death row inmate argue the state's lethal injection drug will cause him unconstitutional suffering and that execution by firing squad is the only appropriate alternative. J.W. Ledford Jr. is set to be put to death Tuesday, May 16, 2017, by injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital. (Georgia Department of Corrections via AP)

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia has carried out its first execution of the year, putting to death a man who fatally stabbed his neighbor 25 years ago.

Authorities say 45-year-old J.W. Ledford Jr. was pronounced dead at 1:17 a.m. Wednesday at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted of murder in the January 1992 stabbing death of his 73-year-old neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston, near his home in northwest Georgia.

According to court filings, Ledford told police he stabbed Johnston after the older man accused him of stealing and they got in an argument. Ledford told police he then hid Johnston’s body and robbed Johnston’s wife at knifepoint.

Ledford’s attorneys had argued execution by Georgia’s lethal injection drug was likely to cause him extreme pain in violation of his constitutional rights. They had suggested using a firing squad instead, but that’s not allowed under Georgia law.

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