Man Sought Clemency On The Basis Of Intellectual Disability

( — Georgia had not had an execution since 2020, but that changed  as 59-year-old Willie James Pye was denied a stay of execution on Tuesday, March 19. The Georgia clemency panel that made the decision had the option of issuing a stay of execution, commuting the death sentence to life in prison, or denying the clemency entirely. After hours of deliberation, they decided to deny clemency.

Pye was convicted in 1996 of kidnapping with bodily injury, rape, burglary, armed robbery, and malice murder of his ex-girlfriend, 21-year-old Alicia Lynn Yarbrough, in 1993. In Georgia, malice murder is the equivalent of first-degree murder in other states, meaning it is a deliberate murder of another person without considerable provocation. Conviction of malice murder in Georgia carries either a death sentence or life imprisonment, with or without the possibility of parole. There are currently about 40 people on Death Row in Georgia.

His other appeals having already failed, and with a seven-day execution window for Pye ending on March 27 being set, his attorneys tried one last effort. They filed for clemency on the grounds that Pye, with an IQ of 68, has an intellectual disability, which would make him ineligible for execution per state law. The filing also described Pye’s difficult childhood growing up in extreme poverty and mentioned that his mother drank alcohol while pregnant with him, which is known to cause birth defects and developmental disabilities. They also argued that he has had a positive effect on fellow prisoners and is remorseful for his crimes.

Pye believed Yarbrough was the mother of his child, who was left behind in the hotel room after he and two others kidnapped her the night they assaulted and murdered her. Her new boyfriend was named on the baby’s birth certificate, and there is no indication that either he or Yarbrough believed Pye was the child’s father. Her other assailants were Chester Adams, who is now 55 and serving five consecutive life prison sentences for his convictions in the case, and a 15-year-old boy who made a plea agreement with prosecutors and was a key witness at Pye’s trial.

As all challenges had run their course, Pye was executed and pronounced dead at 11:03 PM on March 20, at the state prison in Jackson, Mississippi.

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