ATHENS, Ga. – A white supremacist convicted of murdering one of his followers is scheduled to be put to death Wednesday, a day after a Georgia judge corrected a legal glitch that delayed his execution hours before it was to happen.
William Mark Mize is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 7 p.m. for the 1994 murder of Eddie Tucker, who was shot to death after he failed to burn down a crack house in Athens.
Mize was initially supposed to be executed Tuesday, but the Georgia Supreme Court issued a temporary stay on grounds that a trial judge denied Mize's request for a hearing but never decided upon the motion itself.
The judge denied the motion late Tuesday afternoon, clearing the way for a Wednesday execution. The top Georgia court on Wednesday denied another stay of execution and turned down his appeal request.
Mize's attorneys have argued that the execution should be delayed because of lingering doubt over Mize's role in the killing. They also said the state introduced "inflammatory, irrelevant evidence" about Mize's racist beliefs to prejudice the jury.
Prosecutors said Mize is an unrepentant killer who led Tucker into the woods in Oconee County and shot him in the head with a shotgun after he didn't destroy a house that Mize wanted burned to the ground.
Mize was the leader of a small white supremacist group called the National Vastilian Aryan Party — which prosecutors say was similar to the Ku Klux Klan — when Tucker applied to join the group.
Mize ordered Tucker and another supporter, Chris Hattrup, to set the house on fire the night of Oct. 15, 1994, as an initiation of sorts and the group stopped at a convenience store to buy lighter fluid, prosecutors said.
When the two failed to burn down the house, prosecutors said Mize turned to Hattrup and said, "you know what we have to do." The two led Tucker into the woods in rural Oconee County, where Hattrup shot him in the back and the chest.
Mize, prosecutors said, fired the fatal shot to the head.
Mize's girlfriend, who witnessed the killing, agreed to testify against him at his 1995 trial and charges against her were dropped. During the sentencing phase, Mize took the stand and told jurors he wanted no other sentence but death. It took the jury less than a day to grant him his wish.
Mize's lawyers have filed a flurry of appeals, contending the state tried to prejudice the jury by showing the panel photographs of a KKK belt buckle, a racist poster and other items seized from Mize's home.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that while evidence concerning a defendant's political or racial beliefs is normally irrelevant, it was accepted because it explained Mize's motive for the murder "and his bent of mind."
The appeals also hinge on sworn statements from Hattrup, who is serving life in prison after pleading guilty to murder. Hattrup, while in prison, claimed that he fired the third and final shot amid a drunken rage.
Appellate courts, though, have dismissed Hattrup's testimony as contradictory and inconsistent. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found in a 2008 ruling that Hattrup either has an incomplete memory or, at worst, he "is lying in order to help his friend Mize."