Crime

Judge won’t reopen execution-bound man’s case to consider if midstate juror was biased

William C. Sallie
William C. Sallie

A federal judge in Macon signed an order Tuesday declining to reopen William C. Sallie’s case or stay it, pending decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sallie, 50, is set to be executed Dec. 6 for the the 1990 shooting death of his estranged wife’s father in Bacon County.

After the Georgia Supreme Court reversed his original conviction and death sentence, a Houston County jury heard the case in 2001 and again found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

Sallie’s lawyers contend that one of the Houston County jurors was biased and unfit to hear the case due to details of her background that she didn’t divulge during jury selection. The woman had been a victim of domestic violence, party to an interstate custody fight and divorced multiple times.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is set to meet Dec. 5 to consider whether Sallie should be granted clemency

Sallie was found guilty of fatally shooting his father-in-law March 28, 1990, at his in-law’s home after his estranged wife had filed for divorce amid allegations of physical abuse.

Authorities have argued that he kidnapped his 2-year-old son and took him to Illinois. Sallie’s wife obtained temporary custody and brought the child back to her family’s home in rural Bacon County, just south of Hazlehurst, before the killing.

In seeking to have Sallie’s case reopened, his lawyers also argued that the attorney who handled the case at the 2001 trial failed to adequately investigate the juror’s background. The juror’s history wasn’t discovered by Sallie’s lawyers until 2012.

Citing several cases under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, Sallie’s legal team asked U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell to stay the case until the higher court issues rulings that might affect Sallie’s ability to have his case reopened and the juror issues considered by a judge.

In his Tuesday order, Treadwell wrote, “The fact that other circuits disagree or that the law may change in the future does not negate the fact that” a prior case decision by the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals still stands.

Further, Treadwell wrote that he fails to see how the Supreme Court’s decision on the pending cases would be relevant to Sallie’s situation.

Sallie’s lawyers are seeking to have the appellate court consider the issue.

We are fighting to avoid a situation where the Supreme Court changes the law but it happens too late for the courts to secure Sallie’s right to an impartial jury and effective trial counsel.

Joseph Perkovich, one of Sallie’s lawyers

Joseph Perkovich, one of Sallie’s lawyers, said the Court of Appeals’ decision that Treadwell cited was made by a three-judge panel in 2014.

“We are now asking the entire Eleventh Circuit Court to review that decision in light of divergent opinions from its peers around the country and to consider reversing it now so that Mr. Sallie may have a chance to return to court before he is executed,” Perkovich said. “We are fighting to avoid a situation where the Supreme Court changes the law but it happens too late for the courts to secure Sallie’s right to an impartial jury and effective trial counsel.”

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is set to meet Dec. 5 to consider whether Sallie should be granted clemency.

Amy Leigh Womack: 478-744-4398, @awomackmacon

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