Read a PDF of our statement here.

The state of Georgia executed Willie James Pye via lethal injection late Wednesday evening after the Georgia Parole Board denied his request for clemency based on his intellectual disability and the gross ineffectiveness of his trial counsel.

Prior to Mr. Pye’s execution, Georgia had not executed anyone in four years. In response, the Legal Defense Fund’s (LDF) Director of Strategic Initiatives Jin Hee Lee issued the following statement:

“The execution of Willie Pye is a tragic example of the extreme inequities and inhumanity of our capital punishment system. With his life on the line, Mr. Pye was appointed an attorney overwhelmed with hundreds of felony cases and ill-prepared to provide the legal representation required by our Constitution. Moreover, Mr. Pye’s intellectual disability should have automatically disqualified him from execution. There is no evidence that the death penalty improves safety or otherwise benefits our society. Instead, it is a barbaric form of punishment to which the most vulnerable and disadvantaged are relegated.

“The need to abolish the death penalty in Georgia and throughout the United States is long overdue and is especially urgent as states resume executions or otherwise decide to test novel execution methods. We can achieve justice for even the most heinous crimes while remaining true to our humanity.”


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.