JACKSON, Georgia — After carrying out the execution of its oldest death row inmate this week, Georgia is already preparing for the next lethal injection.
In two weeks, Travis Hittson, 45, is scheduled to die for the April 1992 killing of Conway Utterbeck, who was hit with a metal bat while he was sleeping, shot and dismembered, his remains buried in two places. The two were Navy sailors stationed in Pensacola, Florida, at the time of the killing. Another sailor was also convicted in the killing and reached a plea deal for a life sentence.
More executions could be quick to follow. Georgia currently has at least three other death row inmates eligible for execution, meaning all of their standard appeals have been exhausted.
On Wednesday, Brandon Astor Jones was pronounced dead at 12:46 a.m. (5:46 GMT) after an injection of the barbiturate pentobarbital. He was convicted in the 1979 shooting death of suburban Atlanta convenience store manager Roger Tackett during a robbery.
Last year, the state's plan to carry out executions in rapid succession was temporarily thwarted by a problem with its drug.
After executing two inmates in January 2015, corrections officials postponed executions scheduled for March after they noticed white chunks floating in a syringe of the normally clear compounded pentobarbital they had planned to use.
Officials said they investigated the problem and a judge rejected a related legal challenge. Executions resumed in the fall, bringing the year's total to five, the most Georgia had carried out in a calendar year since 1987.
Jones was the first Georgia inmate executed this year.
Four news reporters, including one from The Associated Press, witnessed his execution but only one was present when Jones was strapped down and the IV lines that would deliver the lethal drug were placed on his body. That reporter said the process took about an hour and 10 minutes, which is longer than usual.
A doctor was called in to help the two-person team place the IV lines, said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Joan Heath. One line was put in Jones' right arm and another in the groin area, which is unusual but follows the state's execution protocol if access through veins in the arm or hand is not possible.
Georgia doesn't announce exactly when lethal injections begin, and the injection isn't visible to observers. But the warden left the execution chamber at 12:30 a.m. (5:30 GMT), and records from past executions show the lethal drug generally begins to flow within a minute or two of the warden's departure.
Jones was initially still with his eyes closed and then swallowed a couple of times and moved his head slightly. He opened his eyes six minutes after the warden left and turned his head to his left, appearing to look toward a clock on the wall. Then he closed his eyes again and took a few deep breaths before falling still.
Jones was convicted in October 1979 and sentenced to death. A federal judge in 1989 ordered a new sentencing hearing because jurors had improperly been allowed to bring a Bible into the deliberation room. He was resentenced to death in 1997.
Van Roosevelt Solomon, who was also convicted and sentenced to death for Tackett's killing, was executed by electric chair in February 1985.