Atlanta, October 19, 2016 – The Supreme Court of Georgia has unanimously denied a stay of
execution for Gregory Paul Lawler, who is scheduled to be put to death tonight by lethal
injection at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA.
Lawler, 63, was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of Atlanta police officer John Sowa. The
night of Oct. 12, 1997, the officer and his partner, Officer Patricia Cocciolone, were making sure
Lawler’s drunken girlfriend got back safely to his apartment when Lawler grabbed an AR-15
rifle and opened fire on the officers. He fired 15 times using penetrator bullets. Sowa died almost
immediately. Cocciolone survived, but she suffered a permanent brain injury, a shattered pelvis,
and damaged intestines. She later testified at Lawler’s trial.
In addition to denying Lawler’s motion for a stay of execution, the state Supreme Court has also
denied his request to appeal rulings by both the Butts County Superior Court and the Fulton
County Superior Court. Earlier today, both courts denied his motion for a stay, and both rejected
claims based on his recent diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. His attorneys had argued in
the Fulton County case that a new jury should consider his new diagnosis. In the Butts County
case, they argued that the autism disorder renders him ineligible for the death penalty under the
Georgia and U.S. constitutions.