Death Penalty Inmate Judge Grants Stay of Execution

ATLANTA - Convicted murderer Jack Howard Potts, first sentenced to death in 1976, has died of liver cancer at Augusta State Medical Prison in east Georgia.

Potts was convicted of kidnapping auto mechanic Michael Douglas Priest in Cobb County in 1975 and killing him in a remote Forsyth County field.

"On the one hand, he can claim victory because the state didn't execute him, but he still has to face the final, ultimate judgment," Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn said. "At least we're not spending any more money on appeals."

Potts's latest appeals were pending. He was sentenced to die four times, twice on the kidnapping charge and twice in the slaying. The initial kidnapping and murder convictions were overturned by the federal courts.

After shooting a friend for criticizing his driving, Potts approached a farmhouse and said he had been in a car accident. Priest, 24, agreed to drive him to a clinic.

Priest was robbed and shot in the head. Lawmen captured Potts the next day after he was critically wounded in a shootout in southwest Georgia's Brooks County.

In June 1980, Potts announced he had converted to Roman Catholicism and dropped his appeals because he wanted to die "while in a state of grace." He changed his mind 13 hours before his scheduled execution, and won a reprieve from a federal judge.