posted Feb 4, 2011, 2:12 PM by Kathryn Hamoudah   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 8:29 AM by GFADP staff ]
Moments ago, the Parole Board stayed the execution of Roy Blankenship until February 17, 2011. This stay will allow DNA testing to take place- DNA that has never been tested in the 30 years Mr. Blankenship has been on death row.

4:38 p.m. Friday, February 4, 2011

Parole board stays execution -- DNA testing expected, lawyer says

By Bill Rankin 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles has stayed the execution of a man scheduled to be put to death Wednesday for the rape and murder of a Savannah woman 33 years ago, a lawyer for the condemned inmate said.

The board, in a decision issued late Friday, issued a stay through Feb. 17, said Brian Kammer, who represents Roy Willard Blankenship. The GBI is expected to test DNA evidence in the case.

A judge had directed the GBI to assess whether DNA evidence can be tested before  Blankenship was put to death by lethal injection. The GBI determined the evidence was suitable for testing.

In an order signed early Friday, Chatham County Superior Court Judge Michael Karpf had the DNA evidence sent to the GBI crime lab in Savannah for evaluation. The order was signed after attorneys for Blankenship told Karpf the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which held a clemency hearing Thursday, wanted to determine if the evidence is still viable for testing.

Blankenship sits on death row for the March 2, 1978, burglary, rape and murder of 78-year-old Sarah Mims Bowen, who was found beaten to death in her apartment.

According to court records, Blankenship confessed to police when he was arrested. Also footprints left at the scene led police to Blankenship's house, where they found shoes matching the footprints outside Bowen's apartment. His fingerprints were also found at the crime scene.

All told, Blankenship was sentenced to death three times by three separate juries. His first two death sentences -- imposed in 1980 and 1982 -- were overturned on appeal. In 1986, a jury once again sent Blankenship to death row.

In recent court filings, Blankenship's lawyers said there is evidence to support Blankenship's testimony at trial that, while he was at the apartment that night, another man raped and killed Bowen. Scrapings taken from underneath Bowen's torn fingernails, for example, revealed blood antigens that matched neither Bowen's nor Blankenship's blood type, the court filings say.