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Lawyer argues Georgia man set for execution should be spared, cites significant cognitive impairments

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Posted at 12:55 PM, May 13, 2022

The lawyer for a Georgia man scheduled to be executed next week says her client has significant cognitive impairments that likely contributed to his crimes and has suffered horrific abuse in prison.

She argues that means his life should be spared. Virgil Delano Presnell Jr. was convicted of killing an 8-year-old girl and raping her 10-year-old friend after abducting them as they walked home from school in Cobb County, just outside Atlanta, on May 4, 1976. He is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.

The five-member parole board, which is the only authority in Georgia that can commute a death sentence, has scheduled a closed-door clemency hearing Monday to consider his case.

“Before society makes a man pay the ultimate price for a crime, it must determine if his culpability justifies the cost. In Virgil’s case, it simply does not. Virgil Presnell is profoundly disabled,” his attorney Monet Brewerton-Palmer wrote in a clemency application released on Friday by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The application acknowledges the seriousness of what Presnell Jr. did and says he's “deeply and profoundly sorry” to the families of the two girls. The application asks the parole board to delay his execution by 90 days so the board can review his application, then it asks the board to commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole.