11:46 p.m. Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Execution halted for condemned Paulding County killer
By Bill Rankin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
After refusing for years to challenge his execution, condemned killer Nicholas Cody Tate on Tuesday changed his mind just hours before he was to be put to death.
A judge then signed an order halting Tate's execution, about an hour before he was to be taken to the lethal-injection chamber. He had been scheduled to be put to death at 7 p.m. at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.
Tate was charged with the murders of Chrissie Williams, who was shot in the head, and her 3-year-old daughter Katelyn, whose throat was slit, in their Paulding County home in 2001. He freely admitted to the crimes, pleading guilty in 2005 and waiving a trial by jury.
During the plea, Tate said he went to the victims' home to steal money, weapons and drugs. After a sentencing hearing, a Paulding judge sentenced him to death.
After the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in Tate's automatic direct appeal, which is required in all capital cases, Tate said he wished to file no further appeal, which are routine in most all death-penalty cases and, on occasion, result in new trials.
During one hearing, Tate told a judge he had been caught "red handed" and that none of his rights had been violated. "I choose to waive any and all future appeals," Tate said.
Last week, as the execution neared, Tate's brother sought to file an appeal on Tate's behalf. But that was abandoned after psychiatrists examined Tate and found he was competent to decide on his own to forgo his final appeals.
On Monday, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles considered Tate's case and then denied clemency, setting Tate's execution on course without delay. It also meant Tate would become the first Georgia inmate in decades to be put to death without filing a critical appeal challenging his sentence.
But Tuesday, Tate had a change of heart. He signed his petition for habeas corpus, which is expected to take months, if not years, to be litigated.