High court rejects appeal by Julie Love's killer

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected the appeal of Emmanuel Hammond, who sits on death row for committing one of Atlanta's most infamous murders.

The high court's decision sets the course for a Fulton County judge to sign Hammond's execution warrant. In 1988, Hammond abducted, raped and murdered Julie Love, a popular 27-year-old preschool exercise instructor from Buckhead.

Bari Love, the wife of Love's brother, Atlanta lawyer Russell Love, said Monday the family declines comment at this time.

Julie Love had run out of gas the night of July 11, 1988, when she was pulled into Hammond's car. According to prosecutors, Love was raped by Hammond and his co-defendant, bound with coat hangers and killed by Hammond with a shotgun blast to her head. Her body was found in a trash dump in August 1989 after Hammond's girlfriend gave authorities details about the murder.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Hammond's appeal of a ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upholding Hammond's death sentence.

Sheri Johnson, one of Hammond's lawyers, expressed disappointment. Hammond, she said, did not get a fair trial because he received "phenomenally poor representation." Hammond's trial lawyer, William Wehunt, made a tremendous blunder during sentencing, she said.

When arguing for Hammond to get the death penalty, a Fulton County prosecutor told jurors that if Hammond were given a life sentence, he would be eligible for parole and "one day he will be a free man." Such a statement is forbidden under Georgia law and is grounds for an immediate mistrial. But Wehunt, who later testified he was unaware of this, failed to make the request.

In 1995, the Georgia Supreme Court almost granted Hammond a new sentencing trial for this reason. But in a 4-3 ruling, the court noted the evidence against Hammond was overwhelming and said it was "speculative at best" that another jury would have imposed a different sentence.

The co-defendant in the case, William Maurice Porter, is serving life sentences for murder, rape and armed robbery.