Georgia executes man who killed ex-girlfriend

By AFP   March 21, 2024 | 03:30 am PT
A Georgia man convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering his former girlfriend was put to death Wednesday, in the southern U.S. state's first execution in more than four years.

Willie Pye, 59, was executed by lethal injection at 11:03 p.m. (0303 GMT Thursday) at a prison in Jackson, Georgia.

The U.S. Supreme Court and State Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a last-minute bid for clemency by Pye.

In arguing for clemency, Pye's attorneys said he is intellectually disabled -- with an IQ of 68 -- and experienced a traumatic childhood of "profound poverty, neglect, constant violence and chaos in his family home."

In addition, his lawyers said, Pye was poorly represented at trial by a "racist, overworked public defender," who has since died.

Pye was first sentenced to death in 1996 for the 1993 murder of his former girlfriend, Alice Yarbrough.

In 2021, an appeals court overturned Pye's death sentence on the grounds that he had received ineffective representation from his court-appointed lawyer.

The death sentence was later reinstated.

Pye did not record a final statement, but did accept a final prayer, the Georgia Department of Corrections said in a statement.

There have been two other executions in the United States this year.

Convicted killer Kenneth Smith was put to death in Alabama in January in the first execution in the country to be carried out using nitrogen gas.

Another convicted murderer, Ivan Cantu, was executed in Texas by lethal injection in February.

Another execution by lethal injection had been scheduled to take place in Idaho last month but was halted after a medical team was unable to insert an intravenous line.

Capital punishment has been abolished in 23 U.S. states, while the governors of six others -- Arizona, California, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee -- have put a hold on its use.

There were 24 executions in the United States in 2023, all of them carried out by lethal injection.

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