"Waldrip’s death sentence commuted to life without parole," is by Rhonda Cook in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning:
Twenty-six hours before he was to be executed for a murder 23 years ago, Tommy Lee Waldrip was granted clemency.
The state Board of Pardons and Paroles made the rare decision to commute a condemned man’s sentence to life without parole Wednesday even as state and federal courts had turned down his appeals.
Waldrip’s execution was set for 7 p.m. Thursday for the murder of Keith Evans, a college student who was about to testify against Waldrip’s son in a re-trial of an armed robbery case.
The board’s decision came several hours after members heard pleas for mercy from relatives, friends and Waldrip’s lawyers, and then from prosecutors and members of the Evans family who wanted the execution carried out.
The board does not give a reason for its decision. Members vote individually and only the chairman, who collects the ballots, knows how each one decided. The decision required a simple majority, three out of five members.
But one issue raised before the board was that the sentences for Waldrip, his son and Waldrip’s brother, all convicted of murdering Evans on April 13,1991, were not proportional. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against Howard Livingston, Waldrip’s brother, but they did in the cases against Tommy Lee Waldrip and his son John Mark Waldrip.
The three men were tried separately. Only Tommy Lee Waldrip was sentenced to die.
"Georgia death row inmate granted clemency 24 hours before execution," is the AP coverage, via the Guardian.
The board did not give any explanation for its decision in the order, saying only that it had reviewed and considered all the facts and circumstances of the case, as well as arguments for and against clemency.
Lawyers for Waldrip did not immediately return after-hours calls seeking comment Wednesday. Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, said his office had no comment.
Waldrip is only the fifth death row inmate to have a sentence commuted by Georgia's Parole Board since 2002. The last time it happened was in the case of Daniel Greene, who was spared execution on April 20, 2012.
Waldrip had been on death row for two decades. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1994 for the April 1991 slaying of 23-year-old Keith Evans. His son and brother-in-law were also convicted in the killing and are serving life sentences.
For those interested in clemency, I highly recommend, "The Role of Mercy: Safeguarding Texas Justice Through Clemency Reform," which examined best practices in executive clemency. It was In published in 2005 by Texas Appleseed and the Texas Innocence Network. The Appendix contains comparative state information. I'm not aware of any substantive changes since its publication, with the possible exception of Florida's Timely Justice Act.