Board to weigh clemency for Georgia death row inmate on eve of execution

This image provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections shows inmate Willie James Pye. A judge on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, signed the order for the execution of Pye, who was convicted of murder and other crimes in the November 1993 killing of Alicia Lynn Yarbrough. The execution is set for March 20 at 7 p.m., after the judge set an execution window between noon that day and noon on March 27. (Georgia Department of Corrections via AP)

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole will accept information for or against clemency for Willie James Pye at a last-minute meeting in Atlanta next week.

The 59-year-old Black man was convicted in Spalding County for the 1993 murder, kidnapping, robbery, rape and burglary of his former girlfriend, Alicia Lynn Yarbrough.

Pye is scheduled to receive a lethal dose of pentobarbital, which is supposed to paralyze the body, at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson on Wednesday, March 20, at 7 p.m.

If executed, Pye will be the 54th person to be put to death by lethal injection in Georgia.

It will also be the state’s first execution in over four years following a written agreement between the state attorney general’s office and attorneys for some death row prisoners to postpone executions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Litigation over the agreement is pending, but a judge has determined it does not cover Pye’s case.

The parole board’s special meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 19 — the day before Pye is scheduled to be executed.

“It is anticipated that such meeting will be conducted in a closed, executive session…,” the announcement reads. “No public comment will be taken at this meeting and no other business will be conducted.”

In the meantime, opponents of capital punishment in Georgia have launched a petition to halt Pye’s execution, citing his low IQ.

Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) says the U.S. Constitution prohibits the execution of people with intellectual disabilities.

However, Georgia is the only state in the country that requires proof that someone is intellectually disabled “beyond a reasonable doubt” to declare someone ineligible for the death penalty — a standard that is intentionally difficult to meet.

According to the petition, the jury didn’t get to hear about Pye’s intellectual disability during his trial.

Court records show it was left out, but also that Pye’s low intellectual function only borders on disability.

The group plans to deliver their clemency petition to the parole board on Monday, March 18. It has reportedly received over 3,500 signatures.

Vigils for Pye have already been scheduled across Georgia.