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Georgia Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Execution

Georgia Department of Corrections via AP

Georgia's highest court has temporarily halted Wednesday's scheduled execution of a man convicted in the fatal shooting of a convenience store clerk 25 years ago.

Ray Jefferson Cromartie, 52, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection at the state prison in Jackson. He was convicted of malice murder and sentenced to death for the April 1994 killing of 50-year-old Richard Slysz in Thomasville, just inside Georgia's southern border.

The Georgia Supreme Court issued its order about eight hours before the execution was scheduled to happen at 7 p.m. The high court said there is a question of whether the execution order is void because a trial court judge filed it while Cromartie still had an appeal pending with the Supreme Court.

The high court asked lawyers for the state and for Cromartie to file briefs on the issue by Monday.

Cromartie borrowed a handgun from his cousin on April 7, 1994, entered the Madison Street Deli that night and shot clerk Dan Wilson in the face, seriously injuring him, a Georgia Supreme Court summary of Cromartie's case says.

Wilson couldn't describe the person who shot him, and surveillance camera footage wasn't clear enough to conclusively identify the shooter.

Days later, on April 10, Cromartie and Corey Clark asked Thaddeus Lucas to drive them to a different store to steal beer, the summary says. Lucas parked and the other two entered the Junior Food Store.

Cromartie shot Slysz twice in the head, the summary says. Unable to open the cash register, Cromartie and Clark fled after Cromartie grabbed two 12-packs of beer.

In both cases, Cromartie told others he had shot the clerks, the summary says.

Lucas and Clark testified against Cromartie at the September 1997 trial that ended with his death sentence. Lucas and Clark each pleaded guilty to lesser charges, served prison time and were released.