A Burke County Superior Court jury took about half an hour Thursday to determine that Willie Palmer murdered his estranged wife and stepdaughter.
District Attorney Danny Craig said the sentencing phase of Mr. Palmer's death penalty trial begins this morning in Waynesboro, Ga. Both sides will be allowed to present evidence in an attempt to persuade the jury to find one of three possible punishments - life in prison, with or without parole, or death.
Mr. Palmer was convicted of murder and other charges in the Sept. 10, 1995, slaying of 31-year-old Brenda Jenkins Palmer and 15-year-old Christine Jenkins.
Ms. Palmer's sister found their bodies in the early morning of Sept. 11 when she arrived at Ms. Palmer's Vidette house. The only one still alive was the Palmers' 15-month-old daughter, who had been left with the bodies.
Mr. Palmer initially stood trial in Burke County in April 1997, but the proceedings were cut short by mistrial. The trial moved to Washington County,, and a jury convicted Mr. Palmer and set punishment at death in November 1997.
Mr. Palmer remained on death row until October 2003. An appellate judge learned that a critically important witness had been paid $500 for his testimony. The Georgia Supreme Court also found that that fact rendered Mr. Palmer's conviction and sentence unfair. A new trial was ordered.
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