The Georgia Sheriffs Association yesterday asked the state pardons and parole board for details of its secret decision to grant clemency to convicted killer Tommy Lee Waldrip.
After 20 years on Georgias death row, Waldrip was scheduled to die by lethal injection on July 10 less than 26 hours after the boards decision for his role in the brutal beating and shooting death of 23-year-old Dawson County resident Keith Evans.
The pardons board deliberated less than two hours on its decision.
In a letter signed by Sheriffs Association President Wiley Griffin, the group calls for the pardons board to immediately take the steps necessary to declassify all records and information relative to its recent commutation hearing.
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, the letter reads, and we all must know the reasons behind the boards decision.
Our sheriffs strive daily to perform their Constitutional and statutory duties in the most open and transparent manner possible. We feel the Board of Pardons and Paroles must do the same.
The Georgia Sheriffs Association, a lobbying and advocacy organization, represents all 159 sheriffs in Georgia, including Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle.
Meeting at a training conference at Lake Lanier last week, Carlisle presented the Waldrip case to the groups executive board, and then to approximately 110 sheriffs from across the state.
We all voted to send the letter to the parole board, Carlisle said. It was a unanimous vote. They all agreed. Hopefully, well get an answer.
Shortly after the pardons boards July 9 decision, Carlisle said he was shocked and disappointed.
The jury and judge sat there and listened to all the evidence and made their decision based on that evidence, he said, and thats why they found him guilty. For a board to come in 23 years later and change, it just isnt right.
According to biographies of the five-man pardons board posted on the boards website, no one has legal experience.
House Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), who served 18 years in law enforcement in Dawson County, said the pardons board shouldnt hide behind a Georgia law that allows it to keep secrets.
The board needs to state, in writing, what factors they found that would justify striking 23 years of hard work by deputies, investigators, the district attorney, and numerous courts.
Waldrips appeals were denied three times by the Georgia Supreme Court and three times by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tanner, however, would not go so far as to say the boards votes should go public.
A violent person sometimes has a volatile family environment, Tanner said. The way members voted might present some personal danger to the board members.
Sen. Steve Gooch (R-District 51, which includes Dawson County) said the pardons board should release the details of its decision.
When courts and jurors have deliberated in criminal cases and have determined the proper course of action, Gooch said, I feel the pardons and parole board should be required to release the reasons for their actions especially when they reverse the decisions of the courts.
Congressman Doug Collins said when citizens ask government for information, their requests should be honored.
We all depend on responsive and transparent government at every level, Collins said.
The sheriffs association letter echoed Collins statement.
Families across the state deserve no less than our full attention to their need for relevant information affecting their lives, Wiley wrote. We strongly encourage the Board to honor this request.
For the full letter, see page 4A.