Kentucky execution is postponed, perhaps until next year

Debbie Pooley, left, was raped and murdered in 1987 by Gregory Wilson.
Debbie Pooley, left, was raped and murdered in 1987 by Gregory Wilson.

The execution of a man convicted of raping and murdering a Covington woman 23 years ago did not go forward Thursday as originally scheduled.

That could mean Gregory Wilson, 53, won't face another execution date before next year.

Wilson had been scheduled to die Thursday evening, but last week Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd halted the execution, citing concerns about the state's lethal-injection process and the potential that Wilson is retarded, which would bar the death penalty for him.

Attorney General Jack Conway's office asked the state Supreme Court to overturn Shepherd's order, arguing that Wilson's conviction has been upheld in several courts.

However, Wilson's attorneys were not expected to respond to that motion Thursday, according to J. Michael Brown, secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.

That meant Shepherd's injunction stayed in place. The order Gov. Steve Beshear signed for Wilson's execution was valid only until midnight Central time Thursday.

It's not clear when motions before the Supreme Court relating to Wilson's execution will be resolved.

As long as the order barring Wilson's execution remains in effect, Beshear can't issue a warrant setting a new date, spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said in a statement.

That's significant because the state has only one dose of a key drug used to put a condemned inmate to death, and it expires Oct. 1.

The manufacturer reportedly has told the state that more of the drug won't be available until early 2011.

The Rev. Pat Delahanty, head of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said he doesn't think it will be possible to resolve issues Wilson's attorneys have raised and, if those arguments are not successful, reschedule the execution for a date before Oct. 1.

"I can't imagine Kentucky having a date for an execution before the first quarter of next year," Delahanty said.

Wilson, who had earlier served time for two rapes in Ohio, was convicted of killing Debbie Pooley, 36, a restaurant manager, in May 1987.

Wilson forced Pooley into the back seat of her car and attacked her while a former prostitute he'd been seeing, Brenda Humphrey, drove the car. Wilson strangled Pooley and dumped her body in a field west of Indianapolis.

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