JACKSON — Lawyers seeking to block Tuesday's scheduled execution of a man convicted of killing his father-in-law after a custody fight over a young son have argued a juror lied about her own messy relationship history and swayed fellow jurors to vote for a death sentence.
William Sallie should be granted a new trial because of the alleged juror bias, but courts haven't properly considered that evidence because he missed a filing deadline by eight days at a time when he didn't have a lawyer, his lawyers said in court filings.
The 50-year-old inmate, who was convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of John Lee Moore in March 1990, was scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Jackson.
After eight executions already, Georgia has put to death more people this year than any other state including Texas with seven.
Sallie's first conviction and death sentence were overturned because his attorney had a conflict of interest.
At his second trial in 2001, a woman eventually chosen as a juror lied during jury selection and failed to disclose domestic violence, messy divorces and a child custody battle that were "bizarrely similar" to Sallie's case, his lawyers said. They add she later bragged to his attorneys' investigator that she persuaded her divided peers to vote unanimously for death.
The defense team 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 following a clemency hearing Monday.
Sallie's lawyers are also asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the scheduled execution. They argue that the high court's ruling in a pending Texas case with ineffective counsel issues could remove the procedural bars that are keeping the lower federal courts from considering their juror-bias claims.
Attorneys for the state have argued the Texas case isn't similar enough that its outcome would affect Sallie, particularly because that case doesn't involve a federal petition that wasn't filed on time. Furthermore, they argue, even if the issues were identical, the federal appeals court in Atlanta is bound by its own precedent — which doesn't allow such an extraordinary admission of the procedurally barred evidence — and not by the future possibility of new precedent from the Supreme Court.
Sallie's lawyers also have argued in a state court petition that carrying out his execution would violate his constitutional rights. Lawyers for the state rejected those claims and a court dismissed the petition. Sallie's lawyers appealed to the state Supreme Court, which on Tuesday declined to stop his scheduled execution. His lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the time of the killing, Sallie's wife was living with her parents in rural south Georgia after having filed for divorce and after 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. March 29, 1990, Sallie went to the master bedroom and shot John and Linda Moore, according to a Georgia Supreme Court summary of the case. John Moore died from his injuries, and his wife was injured.
Sallie then 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 was a botched attempt to take his son and leave.
There have been 18 executions so far this year in the United States, including those in Georgia and Texas and one each in Alabama, Florida and Missouri. Alabama has one more scheduled Thursday.
Sallie received visits Tuesday from six family members, four friends, three clergy members and four paralegals.