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Georgia Judge Halts Execution

June 18, 2002

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ATLANTA (AP) _ A judge halted the execution of a convicted killer just hours before he was to die Tuesday, saying the death row inmate deserves another clemency hearing before a full parole board.

Wallace Fugate’s attorneys argued that his hearing before the Board of Pardons and Paroles last week was illegal because one of the five seats on the panel was vacant.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge John Goger asked the state attorney general’s office to delay the execution until an empty seat is filled on the parole board. But the attorney general’s office declined and Goger issued the stay.

Two members of the parole board resigned last week amid a state ethics investigation. Gov. Roy Barnes immediately filled one seat, but the other remained vacant during Fugate’s hearing Friday.

Assistant Attorney General J. Jayson Phillips told Goger that Georgia law does not require all five board members to hear clemency pleas. He noted that several higher courts have already rejected Fugate’s appeals.

The votes of three board members are required for a death sentence to be commuted. Fugate’s attorney, Stephen Bright, argued that a missing member reduces his client’s chances for clemency.

Fugate, 52, was condemned for the 1991 shooting death of his ex-wife, Pattie.

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