ATLANTA, GA — A man convicted of killing a Georgia corrections officer has been scheduled to become the second inmate in the state to be put to death by lethal injection in 2018.
Robert Earl Butts, Jr., 40, is set to be executed on Thursday, May 3, at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson. Butts was just 18 in 1998, when he and another man killed Donovan Corey Parks, an off-duty prison guard, in Milledgeville.
Milledgeville is in middle Georgia, about 98 miles southeast of Atlanta.
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According to his case, Butts and the other man were members of the Folks Nation street gang and were being required to commit a violent crime. He got in line behind Parks at a Walmart in Milledgeville, where Parks was buying cat food, and followed him to the parking lot.
Butts and Marion Wilson, who was also 18, asked Parks for a ride and he agreed. Butts pulled out a shotgun and forced Parks to drive to a nearby neighborhood, where he was shot in the head and left for dead. Butts and Wilson stole Parks’ car and drove to Atlanta.
They eventually took the car to Macon, where they burned it, and were arrested after they went back to Milledgeville. Butts was convicted in Baldwin County of murder, armed robbery, hijacking a motor vehicle, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a sawed-off shotgun. He was sentenced to death on Nov. 21, 1998.
Wilson’s case is currently being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied Butts’ appeal on Jan. 22.
The state Board of Pardons and Paroles will meet on Wednesday, May 2, at 9 a.m. to consider clemency for Butts. In Georgia, the parole board is the only entity with the constitutional authority to grant clemency and commute or reduce a death-row inmate’s sentence.
They may also order a stay of execution, though none of Butts’ appeals so far have been successful.
In March, Carlton Gary, the so-called Columbus Stocking Strangler, became Georgia’s first inmate to be executed in 2018. In Georgia, 71 inmates — 70 men and one woman — have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
The state only conducted one execution in 2017. In September, Keith Leroy Tharpe was scheduled to become the second, but the U.S. Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay in the case to study whether racist comments made by a juror in his case tainted the verdict.
Earlier this month, the 11th District U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Tharpe’s argument.
Ph0to courtesy Georgia Department of Corrections