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Evans family to address Dawson County commission
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The family of murder victim Keith Evans tomorrow will ask the Dawson County Board of Commissioners to approve a resolution that asks the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to release details of its decision to grant clemency to convicted murderer Tommy Waldrip.

The meeting is open to the public.

It takes placeAug. 7 at 6 the Dawson County government center, located at25 Justice Way, Dawsonville. The meeting room is on the second floor.

Waldrip, his son John Mark Waldrip and Howard Livingston were found guilty, in three separate trials, in the 1991 brutal beating and shooting death of 23-year-old Keith Evans.

Waldrip, 68, had been on Georgias death row for 20 years. Hewas scheduled to die by lethal injection July 10.

The pardons board made its decision to grant clemency to Waldrip on July 9 after less than two hours of deliberation.

On July 15, the pardons board voted to not release details of its decision, nor how its five-man board voted, citing a 1953 Georgia law.

Angela DeCoursey, sister of murder victim Keith Evans, is on the agenda to address the county board. Her parents, Cleve and Mildred Evans, are expected to attend.

My family needs to know why a death sentence made public 20 years ago was commuted without details being released to the public, DeCoursey said. Waldrip was one of the people who killed my brother. We traveled to Gwinnett County, six days a week for an entire month, for his trial. And we were extremely pleased with the verdict. For our familys closure, we were expecting the sentence to be eventually carried out.

DeCoursey said her family also deserves to know why Waldrip was granted life and how familiar the members of the pardons and paroles board were with the case in issuing the commuted decision.

Further, she said Georgia taxpayers deserve to be informed about their decision, since our taxpayer dollars will continue to be spent on Tommys lifelong imprisonment.

I have prepared a resolution seeking information from the pardons and parole board about its decision to grant clemency, County Attorney Joey Homans said. It includes the financial impact of those cases on the citizens of Dawson County.

A draft of the resolution was obtained by the Dawson News & Advertiser.

It shows Dawson Countys expenses for the the trials of Tommy Waldrip, John Waldrip, and Howard Livingston in 1991 at $750,000 -- $600,000 for the defense of three defendants; $50,000 for additional costs of prosecution and law enforcement personnel; $30,000 for superior court judges and staff; and $70,000 for sequestered out-of-county jurors.

As a result of the costs of these criminal prosecutions, other county-funded services and wage increases for county employees were not funded, the resolution states.

The resolution asks that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declassify all information, both oral and written, received by members of the board when it was considering the clemency request of Tommy Lee Waldrip. ...

Georgia law (OCGA42-9-19)requires the Pardons board to make a written annual report of its activities to the governor, the attorney general, and the House and Senate.

The pardons board came under fire last week when the Georgia Sheriffs Association sent pardons board chair, Terry Barnard, a letter asking details be made public.

The premeditated murder of Keith Evans on April 13, 1991, has devastated his family, the Dawson County community and many others throughout the state for over 23 years, wrote Wiley Griffin, president of the group. And we all must know the reasons behind the boards decision.

The group represents 159 sheriffs.

Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle presented the Waldrip case to the groups executive board and then to approximately 110 sheriffs from across the state who were meeting at a conference.

We all voted to send the letter to the parole board, Carlisle said. It was a unanimous vote.

Carlisle was a young county deputy in 1991 and helped investigate the murder of Keith Evans.

In addition to the sheriffs association asking for the details to be released, House Rep. Kevin Tanner, Sen. Steve Gooch, and Congressman Doug Collins are also calling for details to be made public.

I think we need to explore changes to the law, Rep. Tanner said, and set certain criteria before the (pardons) board can change a death sentence. This is the most significant event a state ever has to consider. There are extraordinary costs involved and a heavy emotional toll on the victims family.

Keith Evans father, Cleve Evans, agrees.

I think it should be the law (that details are public), he said. It should have been the law all along.

In other agenda items:

The commission will vote whether to approve a request for an increase in budget for child and parent representation in Juvenile Court Dependency. They are also expected to vote on an Internet service provider for county government buildings. See page 7A for a complete agenda.