A Lumpkin County man took his last breaths Wednesday night at a Jackson prison, where he was executed for the 2001 murder of his ex-girlfriend.
Steven Frederick Spears, 54, was pronounced dead at 7:30 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. He opted not to make a recorded statement, declined to have a prayer read and offered no last words when prompted by Warden Eric Sellers. He had requested a large meat pizza as his last meal.
Spears was convicted in 2007 for killing Sherri Holland at her home in Dahlonega. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed his conviction last year, and he declined his post-conviction appellate rights.
According to the Supreme Court’s summary, Spears choked Holland Aug. 25, 2001, because he believed she was in a romantic relationship with someone else. He had devised multiple plans to kill her, including electrocution, bludgeoning and shooting.
Spears told investigators he told Holland when they began dating that if he caught her or heard that she was sleeping with someone else he would “choke her ... to death.” Toward the end of his confession, Spears said, “I loved her that much. I told her I wasn’t letting her go, and I didn’t.” He added that he’d do it again if he had to.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for Spears on Wednesday morning. The board reviewed his file and had the ability to commute his sentence to life in prison with or without parole or issue a stay of up to 90 days.
Spears had told a psychiatrist he didn’t really want to die but also didn’t want to continue living in prison.
Attorney Brian Kammer, executive director of the Georgia Resource Center, which defends death-row inmates, filed a petition Monday saying there were constitutional violations during Spears’ trial and arguing Spears wasn’t mentally competent to make the decision not to pursue post-conviction appeals.
Spears told Butts County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson during a hearing Tuesday that he had been tested and judged competent and argued he had the right not to pursue post-conviction appeals, according to a transcript. Lawyers trying to fight his execution were “trying to force their beliefs on me,” he said.
When the state’s expert, Dr. Matthew Norman, asked during an evaluation Tuesday if he wanted to die, Spears said, “Not really, but would you want to live in a 6-by-9 cell? That’s not living,” according to the psychiatric evaluation report.
When Norman asked about his refusal to pursue post-conviction appeals, he said, “We’re talking about another 10 to 15 years. I’m not doing that. The process takes so long. It’s what’s wrong with the death penalty. I have another 20 years of appeals,” he said, adding that even if the court were to grant him life with a chance of parole it would take a long time and there was no assurance he’d actually get out of prison.
Spears was the eighth Georgia inmate to be executed this year by lethal injection.
With Spears’ death, Georgia has executed more people this year than any other state, including Texas which has executed seven. Three other states — Alabama, Florida and Missouri — have had one execution apiece, for a nationwide total of 18 executions this year.
Eight is the most executions Georgia has done in a calendar year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.