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USA: Georgia Carries Out Its First Execution Since 2020

Willie Pye, a 58-year-old Black man, was executed in Georgia on March 20, 2024, after spending over 25 years on death row. His defense team argued that his intellectual disability made his execution unconstitutional. Despite appeals from three of the original trial jurors for clemency, the Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected this plea on March 19, and his final court appeals were also dismissed.

No further action is requested. Many thanks to all who sent appeals.

Willie Pye was arrested in 1993 for the murder of his former girlfriend that occurred in 1992. During his 1996 trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death after a brief sentencing phase where his lawyer failed to present crucial mitigating evidence, such as Pye’s abusive childhood, deprivation, neglect, and potential intellectual disability.

In 2021, the 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals found Pye’s trial representation constitutionally inadequate due to the lack of a thorough investigation into mitigating factors, including his mental health. The court acknowledged that the jury was not informed of significant mitigating evidence, such as Pye’s sub-average intellectual functioning, frontal lobe damage, severe depression, and traumatic childhood, concluding he deserved a new sentencing. However, following a state appeal in 2022, the full 11th Circuit reversed this decision, acknowledging the lawyer’s lack of preparation but ruling that Pye’s case didn’t meet the stringent criteria for federal relief under the AEDPA.

On March 19, 2024, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Pye’s clemency request, despite presenting evidence of his intellectual disability, the impact of his difficult childhood, and his non-violent prison record. Three trial jurors supported clemency, expressing regret over their sentencing decision upon learning of Pye’s background and intellectual disability.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene, and Pye was executed on March 20, 2024, with pentobarbital, without making a final statement but accepting a final prayer. This execution marked one of 1,585 in the U.S. since 1976, with Georgia accounting for 77. Amnesty International continues to oppose the death penalty under all circumstances.