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Georgia man facing execution for 1984 murder-for-hire

By Garry Mitchell
Associated Press Writer

MOBILE — Jerry Paul Henderson faces execution in Alabama by lethal injection on Thursday for the murder-for-hire shotgun slaying of his sister-in-law's husband, a textile worker who raised horses in Talladega County.

Henderson of Calhoun, Ga., has exhausted appeals, said his attorney, Justin Ravitz of Southfield, Mich.

For the victim's family, it has been a 21-year wait for closure.

Henderson, now 58, was convicted of capital murder in the Jan. 1, 1984, shooting death of Jerry Haney, 33, of Talladega. Haney, a father of two children, had seven sisters and three brothers.

The U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear the appeal after the conviction was upheld by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and Alabama courts. The execution is set for 6 p.m. at Holman Prison near Atmore.

"I wish my dad would have lived to see it," said Donald Haney, 57, of Talladega, one of the victim's brothers and a former police officer who had worked on solving the slaying.

Another brother, Talladega Police Lt. Billy Haney, 50, said he plans to witness the execution to represent the family, going not out of revenge, but "just a matter of seeing justice come out."

"It restores some bit of faith in the judicial system that I've worked for so many years. As far as closure and the loss of my brother, it won't change anything," Billy Haney said in a telephone interview Friday. "This is going to be as touching a moment as the trial itself."

The officer said his brother was a person with strong moral values who "provided well for his family."

Fight with husband

According to testimony, after a fight with her husband, Judy Haney told her sister, Martha Henderson, and the sister's husband, Jerry Paul Henderson, that she would give them all the money she had if they would make sure Jerry Haney wouldn't bother her anymore.

The payment was $3,000, according to court records.

Henderson, a maintenance mechanic with a seventh-grade education, and Judy Haney were arrested more than three years after the killing when Martha Henderson agreed to wear a recording device and get her husband to talk about the murder.

According to the court record, Henderson lured Haney onto the front porch and shot Haney with a shotgun. The first two shots did not kill Haney. As Haney lay on the ground pleading for his life, Henderson finished him off with a third shot, point blank, into Haney's face, according to state prosecutors.

Henderson took Haney's wallet. When Henderson got back to Calhoun, Ga., he took approximately $100 out of the wallet and gave that and Haney's Social Security card to Judy Haney.

She paid Henderson $30 for his expenses on the trip and kept the remainder of the cash. The wallet was later destroyed and the shotgun was thrown into a river and was never recovered.

Paid in full

Over the next few months, Henderson was paid the full $3,000 by Judy Haney for murdering her husband. She paid him in installments of $500, $500, and $2,000, according to authorities.

Judy Haney was also convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, but her sentence was reduced in 1997 to life in prison without parole under an agreement with state prosecutors and the family of the victim.

During his stay on Death Row, Henderson waged a lengthy appeal. Ravitz, the Michigan attorney on the appeal, argued in state and federal courts that Henderson's court-appointed trial attorneys had not adequately defended him.

According to testimony, Henderson showed remorse for the killing and about a year before he was arrested had a religious conversion because he "couldn't deal" with what he had done.

Henderson told the jury that he would not beg for his life but that he believed the Biblical admonition not to murder applied to them in making their penalty phase verdict.

The jury voted 10-2 for the death penalty.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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