The Board of Pardons and Paroles issued its decision after hearing hours of testimony about the case of Nicholas Cody Tate, who is to be executed today for the killings of Chrissie Williams and her daughter Katelyn.
Tate’s case presents challenges to the legal system because it has moved particularly quickly through the typically slow-moving realm of death penalty law. Tate, however, refused to challenge his conviction and death sentence through habeas corpus appeals, a process that could postpone his execution for years.
His current and former attorneys won’t comment on why Tate, 31, won’t let them file the appeal. But the transcript from a 2009 hearing in which he waived his right to appeal sheds light on his approach to the process.
“You caught me red-handed,” he said during the hearing, when he waived his motion for a new trial. “None of my rights were violated ... I choose to waive any and all future appeals.”
His attorneys are now at a crossroads of sorts. They abandoned an attempt to have Tate’s brother, Dustin Wade Tate, file an appeal on his behalf last week. And it’s unclear if they will file the rounds of last-minute appeals to the Georgia Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court that are typical in these cases. The only move that’s likely to halt the execution is for Tate to file the habeas appeal, and he has given no indication he will do so.
Friends and family of the victims were hopeful the execution would not be delayed. Kellie Young, Chrissie’s elder sister, said her family would be disappointed if it were to be postponed by the courts.
“I think justice needs to be served for our family,” she said. “And he wants the same thing. Why not go ahead and do it?”
Nicholas Tate pleaded guilty to murder charges in November 2005 and was sentenced to death a month later. His brothers also admitted to committing the violence. They are serving life sentences in prison, and Dustin Wade Tate sent the appeal this month on his behalf.
Nicholas Tate filed a motion for a new trial in 2006, but three years later he had a change of heart. That’s when he said he wanted to waive all future appeals, and a trial judge accepted his request.
His attorneys went ahead with a direct appeal, asking the Georgia Supreme Court to overturn the sentence. Among the arguments they made was that Tate had an abusive childhood that led him to violence. The court rejected that argument, and so do Williams’ relatives.
“Our background wasn’t the best either. We came from an abusive family. We were separated, put in foster homes,” Young said. “I mean, Chrissie graduated high school. She had her whole life ahead of her.”