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Long, varied roads lead to Door 34

By Walter Geiger Those who end up in the small room outfitted in old church pews behind Door 34 take long, varied roads to get there. My most recent trip was last week. I arrived at Door 34 in a state van. Four reporters took a prison perimeter road through a high security checkpoint. There were heavily armed corrections officers in tactical gear everywhere. The prison was on lockdown. It was eerily quiet as we approached the red door with the number 34 emblazoned upon it in white paint. Beyond the door is Georgia’s death chamber. We walked into a small crowded room. It was standing room only. We squeezed into one of the old pews. Before us was a glass wall. Behind it Robert Wayne Holsey was splayed on a gurney. His arms were taped to appendages to the gurney. Two IV tubes snaked out of holes in the back wall. They terminated in a vein in each of Holsey’s arms. Holsey, even reclined, seemed a large man. He dwarfed the gurney. Two swarthy prison guards stood silently in the execution chamber but Holsey gave them no trouble. It appeared he had taken the state up on its offer of Ativan as it prepared to execute him. Though docile as the end neared, Holsey was more than capable of violence. In 1983, he beat a convenience store clerk nearly to death with a brick during a Baldwin County robbery. He was convicted of armed robbery with serious bodily injury and sent to prison. He didn’t stay long and prison did not change him. In 1991, he stabbed one man and fired shots from a rifle at two others during a Milledgeville bar fight. Again, he was sent off. Again, he was apparently not rehabilitated by his time behind bars. At 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 17, 1995, Holsey, armed with a chrome plated .38 revolver, robbed another Baldwin County store, taking $548 from the register and a lottery machine. The clerk immediately called in a description of Holsey and his car. Not five minutes later, a young deputy pulled Holsey over in the parking lot of a ratty, rundown motel. Holsey came out of the car firing. After a brief gun battle, Holsey was still standing. Young deputy Will Robinson was down. Holsey strode over and fired the fifth and final shot from his gun into the back of Robinson’s head. Robinson would have lived had Holsey not fired that final shot. He showed no mercy though he and his lawyers spent a lot of time begging for mercy for him. In the end, it was not granted. Holsey was convicted and sentenced to death. There were the multiple appeals. The last two delayed his lethal injection almost four hours on the night he was to die. At long last, the court system gave up on him as society did years ago. On the front row of the death chamber, Will Robinson’s dad sat armin- arm with his two surviving sons. They had a clear view as vengeance was wrought. To his credit, Holsey leaned up as much as he could, looked into his victim’s father’s eyes and said, ‘Mr. Robinson, I am sorry for taking your son’s life that night. He didn’t deserve to die like that. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me and my family.’ The Robinson men did not seem to react. Perhaps, there was forgiveness. After a prayer, the IVs started. The PA system was off but Holsey mouthed ‘I know, I know’. He looked at his sister, Regina, who works in law enforcement and mouthed ‘I love you’ repeatedly. At one point he seemed to raise his head and offer a kiss to someone though it could have been a reaction to the deadly concoction flowing into his bloodstream. He moaned. His eyes narrowed to slits. He quivered twice. His breathing slowed to a halt and his jaw slackened. After what seemed an eternity, two doctors entered and confirmed what we already knew. Robert Wayne Holsey, murderer, was dead. Nearly 19 years after he needlessly and mercilessly killed a young deputy, justice had prevailed. As we were ushered out, I stared at the backs of the Robinson men. They sat stoically, still arm-in-arm. I wanted to get their feelings ‘“ to gauge their reactions ‘“ but I never got the chance. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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