July 23, 2014

Drinker Biddle Team’s 17-Year Fight for Death Row Inmate Tommy Lee Waldrip

On July 9, 2014, the day before Tommy Lee Waldrip’s scheduled execution, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole granted him clemency, commuting his sentence to life imprisonment.  Waldrip spent 20 years on death row in Georgia.  He became a client of Drinker Biddle in 1997 and our lawyers fought tirelessly for 17 years to spare him the death penalty. 

Waldrip was convicted in 1991 of murdering Keith Evans, a witness in the armed-robbery trial of Waldrip's son. Waldrip's son was convicted for murder, along with his brother-in-law.  Both his son and the brother-in-law received life sentences. Although no physical evidence connected Waldrip to the Evans murder, he was convicted on the strength of confessions in which he tried to take the blame for his son.  During his appeals and in state habeas proceedings it became clear that not only was Waldrip severely mentally ill, but that he had requested counsel when arrested and before making his confessions.  Although our cause was just and his death sentence unfair, Waldrip’s habeas proceedings were unsuccessful.  Earlier this summer, the United States Supreme Court refused his last appeal.

We applaud Jeff Ertel and Nicole Kaplan of the Federal Defenders in Georgia, who worked with us throughout the representation and who handled the clemency petition, convincing the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole to grant clemency for only the fifth time since 2002.   We also celebrate the tremendous effort of scores of current and past Drinker lawyers and paralegals who worked on Tommy Lee’s behalf, led by Larry Fox, Alicia Hickok and our former partner David Kessler.

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