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Georgia board declines to stay man's execution after lawyers claim he's intellectually disabled

A Georgia board declined Tuesday to stay the execution of a man sentenced to death in the killing of his former girlfriend.

Willie James Pye, 59, is set to be executed Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson via lethal injection, in what is the state's first execution in more than four years.

Pye was convicted in 1996 of malice murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, armed robbery, burglary and rape in the death of his former girlfriend, Alicia Lynn Yarbrough, in 1993. The jury recommended a death sentence for the malice murder count, which was ordered by a trial court.

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Last month, the Superior Court of Spalding County set the seven-day window for Pye's execution, beginning at 12 p.m. ET and expiring on March 27 at 12 p.m. ET.

Pye's previous appeals have been denied as have his state and federal habeas corpus proceedings.

Last week, Pye's attorneys filed for clemency with the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, arguing that he has an intellectual disability with an IQ of 68 and is therefore ineligible for execution per state law, according to the clemency application.

PHOTO: This image provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections shows inmate Willie James Pye.  (Georgia Department of Corrections via AP)
PHOTO: This image provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections shows inmate Willie James Pye. (Georgia Department of Corrections via AP)

His attorneys also argue that Pye had a "difficult early life," growing up in extreme poverty in a home that had no kitchen or bathroom. Because his mother allegedly had no prenatal care, ate inadequately while pregnant as well as drank alcohol, Pye's attorneys say that he was "already at risk for myriad cognitive and developmental problems."

Additionally, Pye's attorneys say he has had a positive impact in prison on his fellow inmates, has never been a threat to the lives of correction staff and that he feels remorse for his crimes.

Pye's attorneys did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment.

Prior to the hearing, Pye requested his final meal, asking for two chicken sandwiches, two cheeseburgers, french fries, two bags of plain potato chips and two lemon-lime sodas, according to local ABC News affiliate WSB-TV.

MORE: This state to consider allowing execution by nitrogen gas after Alabama used method

Lethal injection has been the method used for most executions in the modern era, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit that provides data and analysis on capital punishment.

States and jurisdictions can use a one-, two- or three-drug combination. The three-drug combination involves, firstly, an anesthetic or sedative, then a drug to paralyze the prisoner and, lastly, a drug to stop the heart, the DPIC said.

Georgia's last execution of a prisoner was in 2020, according to the DPIC. The state currently has 41 prisoners on death row.

However, problems have arisen with lethal injections in the form of botched executions. Officials have struggled to find veins, intravenous lines have clogged with the deadly chemicals and prisoners have had violent reactions to the dispensed drugs. Additionally, there have been shortages of the drugs used for lethal injection.

This led to Alabama becoming the first state to execute someone via nitrogen gas, which medical and legal experts said is an untested method and there's no evidence it will be any more humane or painless than lethal injection.

Georgia board declines to stay man's execution after lawyers claim he's intellectually disabled originally appeared on abcnews.go.com