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Georgia delays Rhode execution, but only until 7 p.m. Friday

ATLANTA — Georgia corrections officials on Thursday again delayed the execution of a prisoner who attempted suicide the day he was to be put to death.

Brandon Joseph Rhode’s execution had already been postponed until 9 a.m. Friday after he used a disposable razor to slash his throat and wrists on Tuesday, the day he was set to die.

The state is moving the execution back by 10 hours to 7 p.m. Friday to allow several appeals to work their way through the system, said corrections spokeswoman Sharmelle Brooks.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge William Duffey rejected Rhode’s request to delay the execution by three weeks to allow his attorneys to investigate how he was able to get the razor while he was supposed to be under constant surveillance by prison guards.

Duffey said it was “very troubling” that Rhode was able to attempt suicide, but he said attorneys don’t need more time to probe what happened.

Rhode was stabilized after his attempt and he’s since been put in a restraining chair to prevent him from pulling out the sutures on his neck or doing any other harm to himself, a state attorney said.

Rhode was convicted in 2000 of the killings of Steven Moss, 37, his 11-year-old son Bryan and 15-year-old daughter Kristin during a 1998 burglary of their Jones County home. His co-conspirator, Daniel Lucas, was also sentenced to death in a separate trial and is on death row.

Rhode has several other appeals pending. His attorney, Brian Kammer, filed an emergency motion in state and federal court arguing that the attempted suicide proves Rhode was mentally incompetent and executing him violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

And the Southern Center for Human Rights, which asked Duffey to delay the execution for three weeks, plans to appeal his decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Suicide attempts on death row, while rare, do happen.

But William Montross, a lawyer for the center, argued that Rhode’s attempt was part of a larger problem at Georgia’s death row, which has lost two condemned inmates within the last year.

“Mr. Rhode will be executed,” said Montross. “What we’re asking for is a very short period to determine the facts of what happened with Mr. Rhode.”

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