Homicide

Georgia executes inmate for 1990 murder of father-in-law

Convicted murdered becomes the ninth person in Georgia executed this year

 

With the execution Tuesday of a man convicted of killing his father-in-law, Georgia has put to death nine inmates this year -- more than any other state.

William Sallie's time of death was 10:05 p.m., after an injection of compounded barbiturate pentobarbital at the state prison in Jackson, Warden Eric Sellers told witnesses. Sallie, 50, was convicted of murder in the March 1990 shooting death of John Lee Moore in rural south Georgia.

When asked if he wanted to make a final statement, Sallie lifted his head to face the witnesses.

"I just want to say I'm very, very sorry for my crimes. I really am sorry," he said, adding that he had prayed about it many times. "I'm just very sorry for everything. I do ask for forgiveness."

He accepted the offer of a prayer.

Records from past executions show that the lethal drug generally starts flowing within a couple of minutes of the warden exiting the execution chamber. About a minute after the warden left, Sallie lifted his head and looked out at the witnesses before putting his head back down, yawning and then closing his eyes and breathing deeply several times.

About two minutes after the warden left, Sallie's body twitched five or six times, his shoulders lifting slightly off the gurney, but his eyes remained closed. Within another minute, he became still.

In addition to the nine executions in Georgia this year, habitual leader Texas executed seven inmates, and Alabama, Florida and Missouri have carried out one execution apiece, for a total of 19 executions this year. Alabama has one more scheduled Thursday.

This year's tally also marks the most executions Georgia has carried out in a calendar year since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. The state executed five inmates last year and five in 1987.

Sallie had abused his wife during their marriage and she was living with her parents in rural Bacon County after having filed for divorce, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case. The two had fought bitterly over custody of their young son.

After cutting his in-laws' phone lines and breaking into their house about 12:45 a.m. on March 29, 1990, Sallie went to the master bedroom and shot John and Linda Moore, the summary says. John Moore died from his injuries.

Sallie took his wife and her sister to his mobile home, leaving his son behind, the summary says. Sallie released his wife and her sister that night and was arrested a short time later.

Sallie's lawyers have said the shooting happened during a botched attempt to take his son and leave.

The Georgia Supreme Court threw out Sallie's first conviction and death sentence in 1998 because his trial lawyer had a conflict of interest. At a second trial in 2001, he was again convicted and sentenced to die.

His lawyers argued that he should, once again, be granted a new trial because a woman who ultimately ended up on the jury during the second trial lied during jury selection and failed to disclose her own history of domestic violence, messy divorces and child custody fights -- traumatic events that they said were "bizarrely similar" to Sallie's case.

But no court ever properly considered the alleged juror bias, his lawyers argued in a recent legal challenge, because the issue wasn't discovered until more than a decade later, and courts had ruled that Sallie's petitions raising that evidence were procedurally barred because he missed a filing deadline by eight days at a time when he didn't have a lawyer.

The defense team also made those arguments in a clemency petition to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, urging it to act as a "fail safe" against a miscarriage of justice. But the board, the only authority in Georgia with power to commute a death sentence, declined to spare Sallie's life after a clemency hearing Monday.