Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Archbishop Hartmayer asks for clemency for death row inmate Willie Pye

By GEORGIA BULLETIN STAFF | Published March 7, 2024  | En Español

ATLANTA—On March 7, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., wrote to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to ask for clemency for death row inmate Willie James Pye.

Pye is scheduled to be executed on March 20 at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson for the 1993 murder of Alicia Lynn Yarbrough.

In his letter, published below, the archbishop expressed concerns about evidence of Pye’s intellectual disability not being raised at trial:

“Dear Chairman Barnard and members of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles:

We are writing to urge you to grant clemency to Mr. Willie James Pye, whose case you will be considering. There are several important factors that we wish to bring to your attention in this tragic case.

First, we offer our deepest sympathy to the family of Ms. Alicia Lynn Yarbrough. We acknowledge that the State of Georgia has the right and the duty to seek justice for her. Nevertheless, we ask for mercy for Mr. Pye because he is a child of God, and our Christian faith teaches us that the life of every human person has worth and dignity. Justice cannot be found in the taking of another life.

Our Christian faith also teaches us that we are bound to protect the most vulnerable among us. Mr. Pye has an established IQ of 68, and was never given the opportunity to have evidence of his intellectual disability raised at trial. To execute him would not only contravene the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia, it would strike at the heart of our moral commitments as Christians and citizens of Georgia.

As members of the Parole Board, you alone are in the position of granting clemency in this case. We pray and grieve with the family of Ms. Yarbrough, and ask you to spare the life of Mr. Willie James Pye.

Sincerely yours in Christ, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv.”