A six-man “strap down” team eased William Sallie onto the gurney in the death chamber at 9:38 p.m. Tuesday. Each kept his hands on the condemned man until both legs, both arms and both shoulders were secured to the bed.
Four nurses then prepared him for IVs.
Sallie, 50, had eaten all of the pizza he’d requested as his last meal. Now he winced as the needles pierced his skin.
Ten minutes later, witnesses filed into the chamber. Some were relatives of the man Sallie killed in 1990. The inmate raised his head, and spoke:
“I am very, very sorry for my crime. I really am sorry,” he said. “Man is going to take my life tonight, but God saved my soul. I’ve prayed about this. I do ask for forgiveness.”
Then he asked for a prayer.
As the lethal drug pentobarbital flowed into his veins, Sallie’s shoulders twitched four or five times, but his eyes remained closed. Then he was still.
Time of death was 10:05 p.m.
Georgia had just executed its ninth murderer in 2016, more than any other state this year and the most in Georgia since capital punishment was reinstated more than 40 years ago.
It was a quiet end to the life of a man who went on a rampage one night in 1990, destroying the family of which he had been a part for years. Sallie, in the midst of a breakup with his wife and having just lost custody of his son, shot his father-in-law six times, killing him, shot his mother-in-law four times (she survived) and then abducted his wife and her sister, sexually assaulting both of them over a period of several hours.
Tuesday, nine protesters stood vigil in the chilly night air at an area just inside the entrance to the prison grounds in Jackson.
Sallie’s execution had been scheduled for 7 p.m., but Georgia does not act until all courts have weighed in, which usually puts the actual time of death well into the night and sometimes into the early hours of the next day.
Tuesday afternoon, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously denied Sallie’s request for a stay of execution. His lawyers then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court.
As he waited, Sallie ate his pizza and visited with six family members, four friends, three members of the clergy and four paralegals.
He had repeatedly failed to get any court to consider his claim of juror bias, and on Monday the State Board of Pardons and Paroles also rejected that argument and refused to grant a stay of execution.
Sallie was convicted of murdering his father-in-law John Moore in 1990, shooting and wounding his mother-in-law Linda Moore, and kidnapping his estranged wife and her sister.
Sallie broke into his in-laws’ home in Bacon County — where his wife, Robin, and their 2-year-old son, Ryan, were sleeping — after he lost a custody battle and his wife filed for divorce.
In court filings and a clemency petition, Sallie’s lawyers wrote that the domestic turmoil in William and Robin Sallie’s lives was much like that lived by a juror who denied ever being embroiled in a volatile marriage, a custody dispute or domestic violence.
When the woman was questioned during jury selection for the Sallie murder trial, she said her marriages — four of them — had ended amicably.
Sallie’s lawyers said that was false, contending in their clemency petition that the juror fought with soon-to-be ex-husbands over child custody and support payments and lived with domestic abuse.
That juror also told an investigator for Sallie’s lawyers that she pushed six fellow jurors to change their votes from life in prison to death, making the jury’s decision unanimous.
In numerous filings, Sallie’s lawyers tried to get a hearing on the issue of juror bias, which was never argued in any court because Sallie missed, by a few days, a critical deadline to bring that appeal.
Sallie’s attorney Jack Martin said that deadline came at a time when the defendant did not have a lawyer.
Martin said former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher told the Parole Board about Georgia’s history of not providing legal counsel for condemned inmates.
Fletcher wrote an op-ed in The New York Times this week — “Georgia’s dangerous rush to execution” — in which he talked about the problems inherent in Georgia’s application of the death penalty. The state does not provide a lawyer to death row inmates after their initial round of appeals is exhausted.
“A door that would have been open to Mr. Sallie in almost any other state was closed to him in Georgia,” Fletcher wrote of the state’s refusal to provide people with legal counsel. “If it were open, he would be able to present the facts about his trial, which appear to show serious problems with juror bias.”
Now that Sallie has been put to death, Georgia has nearly doubled its record for the number of executions carried out in a year since the death penalty was reinstated here in 1973. Georgia executed five people last year and also in 1987. Georgia also leads the nation in executions this year. Texas is second, with seven executions in 2016.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.