Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Vigils across Georgia to be held for death row inmate Willie Pye 

By NATALIA DURON, Staff Writer | Published March 19, 2024

ATLANTA—The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for death row inmate Willie James Pye at a specially called meeting Tuesday, March 19. 

The Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (GFADP) gathered Monday at the Georgia Capitol Building to deliver a petition for clemency, which had more than 4,000 signatures.  

On March 7, Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., wrote a letter to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles asking to grant clemency on the basis that Pye’s intellectual disability was not considered at trial.  

Archbishop Hartmayer and the GFADP also said that his execution would contradict precedent in the United States Supreme Court case decision Atkins v. Virgina, which held that executions of intellectually disabled persons are prohibited.  

Georgia is the only state that requires proof of intellectual disability beyond a reasonable doubt to prevent execution; other states use a preponderance of evidence.  

Pye was convicted of the 1993 killing of Alicia Yarbrough and was sentenced to the death penalty for malice murder in 1996.  

Pye will be executed March 20 at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic & Classification State Prison in Jackson. It will be the state’s first execution in four years. 

Vigils for Pye will be held across the state on March 20. Locations for the vigils are stated below. For more details, visit the GFADP homepage.  

  • Americus–Koinonia Farm
  • Athens–Downtown Athens, UGA Arch 
  • Atlanta–Georgia Capitol. Bishop John Tran will attend this vigil.
  • Augusta–Augusta Judicial Center  
  • Blairsville–St. Francis of Assisi Church  
  • Clarksville–Gazebo in Clarksville square (silent vigil)  
  • Comer–Cliff Yarbrough Memorial Park  
  • Decatur–Ponce at the old Courthouse  
  • Jackson – Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison  
  • Johns Creek–St. Brigid Church  
  • Macon–Macon City Hall  
  • Marietta–Marietta Square at the Marietta Courthouse  
  • Savannah–City Hall