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Man Spared From Execution After Rare Clemency Grant

It’s the first time since 2014 that someone on Georgia’s death row has been granted clemency.

Jimmy Meders during his time in the National Guard.Photo courtesy of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Jimmy Meders, who was scheduled to be executed by the state of Georgia on Thursday night, has been granted clemency. He was sentenced to death in 1989 for a crime that most likely would not receive the death penalty today.

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted the 58-year-old’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

Meders is the first person on Georgia’s death row to receive clemency since 2014, and just the 10th since 1976, when a Supreme Court decision revived the death penalty. During that time, Georgia has sentenced 235 people to death and executed 75.

Meders was convicted of murder for killing a convenience store clerk during a robbery in 1987. He had no prior criminal history, and was sentenced to death four years before life without the possibility of parole became an option in capital cases. 

Prosecutors rarely seek the death penalty in similar cases today, Meders’s Southern Center for Human Rights lawyer, Mike Admirand, wrote in the application for clemency. 

Jurors in Meders’s trial even asked the judge if they could recommend the sentence of life without parole, Admirand wrote.

Living jurors who remember the trial confirmed that they did not want Meders to be sentenced to death. “Our options were basically a chance to set him free or the death sentence, so I went with the death sentence,” one of the jurors quoted in the petition said.

In a statement Thursday, Admirand expressed his gratitude for the board’s decision.

“The board’s critically important role in showing mercy in these rare circumstances cannot be overstated,” he said. “By taking this action, this parole board has made real the intent of the jury to sentence Jimmy to life without parole, and not death.”