Robert Earl Butts Jr. was put to death by lethal injection Friday at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. He was pronounced dead at 9:58 p.m.
When asked for a final statement, Butts replied, “I’ve been drinking caffeine all day.” Then he declined an offer for a prayer. Butts kept his eyes closed from the moment he was placed on the gurney.
He never looked at the father and brother of his victim, sitting on just the other side of the window that separates the witness area from the execution chamber. Nor did he look at Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee or Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, who was chief deputy in Baldwin County at the time of the murder.
Two minutes after the pentobarbital began to flow into the vein in his arm, Butts mumbled, “It burns, man.” After that, he yawned and took a series of deep breaths until there was no movement about a minute before he was pronounced dead.
Butts, 40, was sentenced to death for the March 1996 murder of 25-year-old Donovan Corey Parks in Milledgeville. Butts and his co-defendant, Marion Wilson Jr., asked Parks — an off-duty correctional officer — for a ride from a local Walmart store, then minutes later ordered him from the car and shot him in the head. Butts was 18 at the time.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Butts’ request for a stay of execution about 45 minutes prior to him getting the needle.
That followed the Georgia Supreme Court’s unanimous decision Friday afternoon to deny a stay of execution.
Although the lethal injection was scheduled for 7 p.m., Georgia does not proceed until all courts have weighed in on last-minute appeals for mercy.
In addition to denying Butts’ motion for a stay of execution, the Georgia Supreme Court denied his request to appeal rulings by the Butts County Superior Court and the Baldwin County Superior Court, which both issued an order denying a stay and rejecting Butts’ challenge to his death sentence.
Butts spent his final hours with two relatives as the courts weighed his lawyers' last-minute appeals, and he ate his last meal — a hamburger with bacon and two kinds of cheese, a rib-eye steak, chicken tenders, seasoned French fries, cheesecake and strawberry lemonade.
Nearby, on death row, Butts' partner in the murder sat in a cell. The day after Butts' execution warrant was signed on April 16, the U.S. Supreme Court returned Marion "Murdock" Wilson's case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, telling the judges in Atlanta to take another look.
And in another part of the prison, the father and brother of Butts’ victim waited for an end to their emotional roller coaster, which had run parallel to Butts’ over the past three days.
Wednesday night, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles granted Butts a 90-day stay of execution so the parole board’s five members could have more time to review a “considerable amount of additional information” about the case.
That stay halted the lethal injection set for 7 p.m. Thursday. Then the parole board lifted the stay Thursday afternoon and Butts’ execution was rescheduled for Friday night.
Parks’ brother, Christopher, wrote to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to express his despair:
"I have suffered along with my father, Freddie L. Parks, for 22 years since Donovan was brutally murdered," Christopher Parks wrote in an email Thursday. "I spoke at the clemency hearing yesterday, only to receive word that a stay of execution for up to 90 days has been ordered by the parole board. Needless to say, I was distraught and frustrated and so is my dad. We feel as victimized by the system as we were by the offenders."
Robert Butts had an Ad on hotshotinmates.com. You can view his page here. Our condolences to both families.