Originally created 01/07/97

Court rejects convicts bid to reverse death sentence



South Carolina BureauAIKEN - A former Augusta police officer who faces the death penalty for a 1991 Aiken County murder lost his appeal Monday to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Without comment, the justices refused to hear the appeal of Jerry Bridwell McWee.

However, a stay of execution will be filed immediately for Mr. McWee, said attorney Bob Dudek of the South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense.

"Jerry is in the early rounds (of the appeal process)," he said.

Mr. Dudek and attorney James Huff of North Augusta represented Mr. McWee in his appeal to the federal court and an earlier appeal, also denied, to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Mr. Huff was one of two attorneys appointed to represent Mr. McWee at his trial in Aiken County in January 1994.

No new execution date has been set, and Mr. Dudek said a stay of execution should be routinely granted while Mr. McWee pursues other options to seek a new trial. An Aug. 9 execution date was postponed when Mr. McWee's federal appeal was filed.

One possibility being considered is filing a petition for a re-hearing before the nation's high court.

"We'll need to give some thought to it," Mr. Dudek said.

Mr. McWee, 43, could also file a petition in Aiken County for post-conviction relief and argue at a hearing that his court-appointed attorneys who represented him at the trial and appeals did not provide adequate counsel.

In that event, Mr. Dudek said, the court would have to appoint new attorneys to represent Mr. McWee.

The former police officer was found guilty in the murder of convenience store clerk John Perry on July 6, 1991. Mr. Perry was shot to death in a back room of the 19 Corner Store on South Carolina Highway 19 North.

An Aiken jury convicted Mr. McWee of murder and robbery and sentenced him to death in January 1994. His accomplice, George Wade Scott, testified against him at the trial. Mr. Scott pleaded guilty to the murder of Mr. Perry and also to a second murder, of roofing contractor David Willis, which happened one week after Mr. Perry was killed. Mr. Scott is serving a life sentence in prison.

The murder charge against Mr. McWee in connection with Mr. Willis' death is still pending. No trial date has been set.

Mr. McWee worked for the Augusta Police Department for two years from 1976 to 1978.