Palmer sentenced to death

Special
Palmer

WAYNESBORO, Ga. - Once again a jury of Willie Palmer's peers looked at who he is and what he did and sentenced him to death.

 

Mr. Palmer sat expressionless as the clerk announced the jury's unanimous vote for death after deliberating a little more than an hour.

A day earlier, the Burke County Superior Court jury took about half an hour to find Mr. Palmer, 54, guilty of the murders of his estranged wife, 31-year-old Brenda Jenkins Palmer, and stepdaughter, 15-year-old Christine Jenkins.

Ms. Palmer was trying to hide from her estranged husband. She had filed for divorce and sought the protection of a court order, which sent Mr. Palmer to jail because he wouldn't leave her alone.

Ten days after he got out of jail the last time, however, he found out where Ms. Palmer had fled with Christine and the Palmers' 15-month-old daughter. Just after 10 p.m. on Sept. 10, 1995, Mr. Palmer kicked down the door to the tiny Vidette house she had rented.

"Set the appropriate punishment for a man who shoots a 15-year-old girl between the eyes ... who kills an unarmed mother'' and then leaves a baby with the dead, District Attorney Danny Craig told the jury.

"This week you had evil visited upon you," he said. One rarely gets to decide how to punish evil, he said.

Attorney Michael Garrett, who represented Mr. Palmer, asked the jury to see a lifetime behind bars without any hope of parole as the more just sentence.

It makes no sense to kill people in order to teach others not to kill, he argued.

"We can find justice in this without blood atonement," he said.

The victims' family members were relieved to see the end of the trial and sentencing.

"It's just what I was looking for," said John Henry Jenkins, who lost his sister and niece. "It was very hard on us to have to go through this again."

This month's trial was Mr. Palmer's third. The first, in April 1997, ended in a mistrial. He was convicted and sentenced to death at the conclusion of a second trial in Washington County in November 1997.

But the conviction was overturned in October 2003 when it was revealed that an important witness was paid for his testimony.

Mr. Garrett said after the trial that he will explore the possibility of another appeal.

Senior Judge William M. Fleming Jr. also sentenced Mr. Palmer to an additional 70 years for the crimes of burglary, kidnapping, cruelty to children and weapon violations.

The sentencing enambles the Sheriff's office to sends Mr. Palmer back to death row.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.