Clemency Denied for The 1st Person Set to Be Executed in Over Four Years

Georgia’s parole board has denied clemency for a condemned man scheduled to die Wednesday night, paving the way for the state’s first execution in over four years.

Lawyers for Willie James Pye argued that he should not be executed because he is cognitively challenged and feels sorrow for killing a lady three decades ago, according to their mercy plea.

Pye, 59, is due to get a fatal injection with the sedative pentobarbital. He was found guilty of murder, rape, and other charges in the November 1993 death of his ex-girlfriend, Alicia Lynn Yarbrough.

The Georgia Parole Board dismissed Pye’s clemency request after a closed-door hearing, according to an announcement made late Tuesday.

Pye’s attorneys described the man’s trial as “a shocking relic of the past,” citing racism and serious flaws in the Spalding County public defense system in the 1990s.

The flaws of the local justice system had the effect of “turning accused defendants into convicted felons with all the efficiency of Henry Ford’s assembly line,” Pye’s lawyers said in their clemency plea.

“Had defense counsel not abdicated his role, the jurors would have learned that Mr. Pye is intellectually disabled and has an IQ of 68,” the lawyers argued.

“They also would have learned the challenges he faced from birth — profound poverty, neglect, constant violence and chaos in his family home — foreclosed the possibility of healthy development,” they stated in the letter. “This is precisely the kind of evidence that supports a life sentence verdict.”

Pye had had an on-and-off love involvement with Yarbrough. Yarbrough was living with another man when she was killed. Pye, Chester Adams, and a 15-year-old child planned to rob the man and purchase a pistol before going to a Griffin party, according to prosecutors.

Authorities say the trio left the party at midnight and went to Yarbrough’s house, where they found her alone with her infant. They forced their way into the residence, snatched Yarbrough’s ring and necklace, and left with her, leaving the infant alone, according to prosecutors.

According to prosecutors, the three traveled to a motel and took turns raping Yarbrough before leaving in the teenager’s car. According to court filings, after pulling down a rural road, Pye forced Yarbrough out of the car and made her lie face down before killing her three times.

In June 1996, a jury convicted Pye of murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, and burglary and condemned him to death.

Georgia’s final execution occurred in January 2020. The state is attempting to move beyond an agreement reached during the COVID-19 pandemic, which effectively prohibited fatal injections at the time.

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