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Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Donnie Cleveland Lance Double Murder Case

     Sometime between the hours of midnight and five in the morning of November 8, 1997, 40-year-old Donnie Cleveland Lance kicked in the front door of a house in Maysville, Georgia and murdered his ex-wife and her boyfriend. Mr. Lance killed the boyfriend, Dwight "Butch" Wood Jr., by shooting him twice with a shotgun. He murdered his ex-wife, Sabrina "Joy" Lance, by beating her to death with the butt of the weapon.

     Charged with two counts of first-degree murder, Donnie Lance went on trial in February 1999. The prosecution, without a confession, an eyewitness, the murder weapon, or any physical evidence connecting the defendant to the crime scene, had a relatively weak, circumstantial case. Besides the testimony of a pair of jailhouse snitches who claimed Lance had, while in custody, talked about killing his wife and her boyfriend, the prosecutor had to rely on the defendant's motive and past bad behavior.

     During his marriage to Joy Lance as well as after the divorce, the defendant had stalked, beaten and kidnapped her. He had, on numerous occasions, threatened to kill her, and once asked one of her relatives what it would take to "do away with her."

     In April 1999, the jury found Donnie Lance guilty as charged and sentenced him to death.

     Lance's appeals attorneys contested the death sentence on grounds that the trial lawyer had failed to present evidence of the defendant's serious mental impairment due to low I.Q., brain injuries caused by car wrecks, a gunshot wound, and prolonged alcoholism. In April 2009, a Georgia appeals court re-sentenced Donnie Lance to life in prison.

     The Lance case prosecutor appealed this decision to the Georgia Supreme Court which, in 2010, reinstated the death sentence.

    On September 2019, a state appellate court denied Lance's request for DNA testing and a new trial. In early January 2020, the United States Supreme Court declined to halt the scheduled execution.

     On January 29, 2020, at the state penitentiary at Jackson, Georgia, 66-year-old Donnie Lance was put to death by lethal injection.

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