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Sunday, October 22, 2023

Donnie C. Lance's Death Sentence

     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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