Originally created 09/30/03

Judge postpones man's execution



ATLANTA - A judge issued a stay of execution Monday for a Richmond County murderer who initially asked for the death penalty.

The one-sentence order by Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Wilson of Butts County did not list a reason for the stay or a new date for Ernest U. Morrison's execution. Mr. Morrison pleaded guilty to the 1987 murder and rape of Mary Edna Griffin in Richmond County.

He had been scheduled to be executed Wednesday at the Jackson Diagnostic and Classification Center in Butts County, but the Georgia Resource Center's hastily drafted petition persuaded Judge Wilson to halt the procedure. Thomas Dunn, the director of the center, said he argued that Mr. Morrison received bad legal advice during his trial and possibly during a retrial.

Other lawyers have appealed various aspects of Mr. Morrison's conviction, but none has alleged ineffective assistance of counsel.

Mr. Dunn said the stay would give him time to see if Mr. Morrison did indeed have ineffective lawyers.

"We haven't done an investigation," he said, adding that he only began looking into Mr. Morrison's case over the weekend.

Mr. Morrison has changed his mind about the death penalty and whether to appeal several times. He won a second trial to try to convince a jury he was mentally retarded, but that effort failed with the jury and on appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Mr. Dunn said he might contend that Mr. Morrison is insane.