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Death row inmate’s request for clemency rejected ahead of Georgia's first execution in more than four years

Death row inmate’s request for clemency rejected ahead of Georgia's first execution in more than four years

The Georgia inmate's legal team argued he is 'intellectually disabled' and has shown remorse for his crimes.

Warning: This article contains discussion of rape which some readers may find distressing.

A man's appeal to not be executed has been denied by a parole board.

Willie James Pye was sentenced to death in 1996 after being found guilty of the kidnap, robbery, rape and murder of ex-girlfriend 21-year-old Alicia Lynn Yarbrough in November 1993.

However, the 59-year-old's lawyers appealed the sentence in a clemency petition, arguing he doesn't deserve to die.

Willie James Pye's appeal was denied.
Death Penalty Georgia

According to a press release by the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Georgia, Yarbrough was living with another man when Pye, alongside two other men - a 15-year-old and a man named Chester Adams - decided to rob the man's house.

The release states: "[They] planned to rob Puckett because Pye had heard that Puckett had just collected money from the settlement of a lawsuit. Pye was also angry because Puckett had signed the birth certificate of a child whom Pye claimed as his own."

Pye is reported as having bought a gun before the trio attended a party in the same area as the man's house, leaving at around midnight to break into the home where Yarbrough and her baby were.

Prosecutors said they stole jewelery from Yarbrough and then proceeded to kidnap her, leaving the baby behind. Court records state Yarbrough was then taken to a motel where all three took turns raping her - DNA evidence found on the victim's body matched to Pye's - before they transported her to the side of the road where Pye shot her three times.

The 21-year-old mom's body was found a few hours later and Pye, Adams and the teenager were arrested shortly after, with the teenager confessing and implicating the other two despite them initially denying any knowledge of Yarbrough's death.

Pye was sentenced in 1996.
Pexels/ Mark Stebnicki

Pye's lawyers condemned his 90s trial arguing in their application for his clemency that the Spalding County public defender system was majorly flawed at the time and that it had a habit of 'turning accused defendants into convicted felons with all the efficiency of Henry Ford's assembly line'.

They argued some statements made by the teenager - who's confession saw them enter into a plea agreement with prosecutors and act as the main witness at Pye's trial - were inconsistent and that Yarbrough willingly went with the trio to the motel to have sex with them in return for drugs.

They also claimed Pye is 'intellectually disabled' and has 'an IQ of 68,' the appeal stating 'had defense counsel not abdicated his role,' they 'also would have learned the challenges [Pye] faced from birth,' with the appeal listing factors such as 'profound poverty, neglect, constant violence and chaos in his family home' which they claim 'foreclosed the possibility of healthy development'.

Pye is set to die by lethal injection.
Getty Images/ Georgia Department of Corrections

Adding Pye has shown remorse for his crimes, his lawyers resolved instead of a death sentence, 'this [...] kind of evidence' supports 'a life sentence verdict' instead.

As per the Death Penalty Information Center, Pye's lawyers also reminded his death sentence was overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 2021 because it found his trial lawyer 'failed to investigate and present a broad range of available mitigating and rebuttal evidence'.

However, the ruling was overturned a year later by the full federal appeals court, FOX 5 Atlanta reports.

The Death Penalty Information Center also reports Pye's trial attorney has been accused of racial bias, although, the court resolved while the attorney's performance 'was deficient', he did 'not prejudice Pye'.

Yesterday (March 19), after holding a private hearing, the Georgia Parole Board revealed it had denied Pye's lawyers' request for clemency.

Pye is now set to die by lethal injection using the sedative drug pentobarbital. His execution is scheduled to take place at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson on 20 March at 7:00pm.

His execution will be the first Georgia has seen in four years.

If you've been affected by any of the issues in this article, you can contact The National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800.656.HOPE (4673), available 24/7. Or you can chat online via

Featured Image Credit: YouTube/ 11Alive

Topics: Politics, US News, True crime, Crime, Death Row