Court Says Georgia Death Row Inmate Should Be Resentenced

A federal appeals court says a Georgia man sentenced to die for killing a coworker more than 30 years ago should be resentenced.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in the case of 64-year-old Lawrence Jefferson.

Jefferson was convicted of murder and sentenced to die for killing Edward Taulbee. According to court filings, Jefferson killed Taulbee when the pair went to Lake Allatoona to fish after work on May 1, 1985.

The appeals court says Jefferson should be resentenced because his trial lawyers failed to present mitigating evidence.

The jury didn’t hear evidence of brain damage that severely impaired his judgment and ability to control his behavior. The appeals court says that left jurors with a “profoundly misleading” picture of Jefferson and his moral culpability.

Similar Case

In a similar case, a federal appeals court says an Alabama man condemned to die for a killing more than 30 years ago should get a new sentencing hearing because of questions over his mental competence.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals released the decision on Oct. 15 in the case of James McWilliams.

Alabama death row inmate James McWilliams is shown in this undated booking photo in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., provided June 19, 2017. (Courtesy Alabama Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters)
Alabama death row inmate James McWilliams is shown in this undated booking photo in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., provided June 19, 2017. (Courtesy Alabama Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters)

Court records show McWilliams is on death row after being convicted of sexually assaulting and killing Patricia Vallery Reynolds in Tuscaloosa in 1984.

McWilliams challenged a judge’s refusal to appoint a psychiatrist to examine his mental health status at his sentencing. While state appeals courts upheld the decision, federal judges disagreed.

McWilliams, who is in his early 60s, has been on death row since his conviction in 1986. Both he and his mother testified he had numerous head injuries as a child.