Attorney General Baker Announces Execution of Carl Isaacs, Georgia's Longest Serving Death Row Inmate
Georgia Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker announced this evening that the court-ordered execution of Carl Isaacs was carried out at 8:07pm at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center in Jackson, Georgia. In announcing the execution, Baker stated that, “The Isaacs case has been my top priority since taking office as Attorney General. I promised the surviving members of the Alday family and the citizens of Seminole County that we would make sure that justice was served in this case. Tonight, at 8:07pm, the state of Georgia saw that justice was carried out for Ned Alday, Aubrey Alday, Jerry Alday, Mary Alday, Jimmy Alday and Chester Alday. This marks the final chapter in the Carl Isaacs case, and now our thoughts and prayers are with the surviving members of the Alday family.”
Attorney General Baker offered the following information about Carl J. Isaacs, who was executed at 8:07pm on May 6, 2003.
On April 22, 2003, the Superior Court of Houston County filed an execution order, setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Carl J. Isaacs might occur to open at noon, May 6, 2003, and end at noon on May 13, 2003. The Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections then set the specific time and date for the execution. Isaacs had previously concluded his direct appeal from his 1988 conviction in Houston County during the retrial of his murder case, as well as one state and one federal habeas corpus proceeding. Earlier, his original 1974 Seminole County conviction has been through an unsuccessful direct appeal, an unsuccessful state habeas corpus proceeding, and a denial of relief by the federal District Court prior to the December 1985 reversal of his conviction by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals based on pre-trial publicity.
His final appeals during the last two weeks included a denied motion to vacate the judgment of execution in Houston County Superior Court, a second state habeas petition denied by the Butts County Superior Court, the Georgia Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court, and an original habeas petition filed in the United States Supreme Court that was denied just prior to his execution. He was represented during his final appeals by John R. Martin of Atlanta, Georgia.
On direct appeal from the retrial, the Georgia Supreme Court found the following facts as to Isaacs’ crimes: In May of 1973, Carl Isaacs escaped from a Maryland penal institution and, accompanied by his younger brother Billy Isaacs, his half-brother Wayne Coleman and a friend, George Dungee, drove to Florida. On the afternoon of May 14, 1973, they were in Seminole County, Georgia, and their car was almost out of gas. They thought they saw a gas pump behind the rural mobile home belonging to Jerry Alday and Mary Alday and stopped to investigate it. They discovered there was no pump; however, the trailer was empty, and they decided to burglarize it. Dungee remained in the car while the defendant and Wayne Coleman entered the trailer. While they were inside, Billy Isaacs warned them two men were approaching in a jeep.
Jerry Alday and his father Ned Alday pulled in behind the trailer, unaware that it was being burglarized. Carl Isaacs met them and ordered them inside at gunpoint. After their pockets were emptied, Jerry Alday was taken into the south bedroom of the trailer while Ned was taken to the north bedroom. Carl Isaacs shot and killed Jerry Alday, and then both he and Coleman shot and killed Ned Alday.
Soon afterward, Jimmy Alday (Jerry Alday’s brother) drove up on a tractor, walked to the back door, and knocked on the door. Coleman answered the door, “stuck a pistol up in the guy’s face,” and ordered him inside. He was taken into the living room and forced to lie on the sofa. Carl Isaacs shot and killed him.
After Carl Isaacs went outside to move the tractor, which was parked in front of their car, Mary Alday (Jerry Alday’s wife) drove up. Carl Isaacs entered the trailer behind her and accosted her. Meanwhile, Chester Alday (Jerry Alday’s brother) and Aubrey Alday (Jerry Alday’s uncle) drove up in a pickup truck. Leaving Coleman and Dungee to watch Mary Alday, Carl and Billy Isaacs went outside to confront the two men, and forced them at gunpoint into the trailer. Once inside, Aubrey was taken to the south bedroom where Carl Isaacs shot and killed him, while Chester Alday was taken to the north bedroom and killed by Coleman.
Coleman and Carl Isaacs raped Mary Alday on her kitchen table. Afterward, they drove to a heavily wooded area several miles away where Mary Alday was raped again. Dungee killed her. They abandoned their car in the woods and took Mary Alday’s car, which they later abandoned in Alabama. They stole another car there, and were arrested a few days later in West Virginia, in possession of guns later identified as the murder weapons, and property belonging to the victims.
After his original trial, Carl Isaacs was interviewed by a film maker who was producing a documentary about the case. The defendant admitted shooting Jerry, Ned, Aubrey and Jimmy Alday, raping Mary Alday, and burglarizing the trailer. These admissions were introduced in evidence at the retrial.
Isaacs v. State, 259 Ga. 717, 718-19, 386 S.E.2d 316 (1989).
The Original Convictions and Sentences
Isaacs was originally tried in Seminole County in January 1974 for the six murders and sentenced to death. The convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. Isaacs v. State, 237 Ga. 105, 226 S.E.2d 922 (1976). Isaacs subsequently challenged the validity of those convictions and death sentences in state and federal habeas corpus cases. He ultimately prevailed in 1985 when the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit set aside his murder convictions and death sentences, as well as those of his co-indictees Coleman and Dungee, on the basis that venue should have been changed for their trials. Isaacs v. Kemp, 778 F.2d 1482 (11th Cir. 1985); Coleman v. Kemp, 778 F.2d 1487 (11th Cir. 1985). The state’s motions for rehearing were denied on January 31, 1986. Id. The United States Supreme Court declined to overturn the circuit court’s decisions in June 1986. Kemp v. Coleman, Isaacs and Dungee, 476 U.S. 1164, reh’g denied, 478 U.S. 1014 (1986).
Isaacs was reindicted in Seminole County in September 1987 for the six murders. Pretrial proceedings resulted in the recusal of the first judge assigned to preside over the retrials of the three defendants. Isaacs v. State, 257 Ga. 126, 355 S.E.2d 644 (1987). The next assigned presiding judge changed venue for Isaacs’ retrial to Houston County, where Isaacs was reindicted on August 17, 1987, for the six murders. The denial of Isaacs’ plea in abatement and motion for acquittal based on the return of a third indictment was affirmed in an interlocutory appeal. Isaacs v. State, 257 Ga. 698, 364 S.E.2d 567 (1988). At a jury trial in Houston County on January 4-30, 1988, Isaacs was found guilty of and sentenced to death for each of the six murders. The jury found the existence of five statutory aggravating circumstances for the murder of Mary Alday and four statutory aggravating circumstances for the murders of the five men under O.C.G.A. § 17-10-30 (b)(2), (b)(7), and (b)(9), and imposed a death sentence for each murder. The jury based the death sentences for the murders of Ned, Jerry, Jimmy and Chester Alday on: two (b)(2) aggravating circumstances, in that each murder occurred during the course of an armed robbery and a burglary; one (b)(9) circumstance, as each murder was committed by a person who had escaped from lawful confinement; and one (b)(7) circumstance, in that each murder was outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved depravity of mind. The jury found the same statutory aggravating circumstances supported a death sentence for the murder of Aubrey Alday and that his murder additionally involved torture under (b)(7). The jury found the same (b)(2) and (b)(9) circumstances for the murder of Mary Alday; found an additional (b)(2) circumstance as her murder was also committed during the course of a rape; and found her murder involved all three (b)(7) sub-components: aggravated battery, depravity of mind and torture. After one remand of the case on Isaacs’ motion to complete the record, the case was redocketed in February 1989. Isaacs v. State, 259 Ga. 717 n.1, 386 S.E.2d 316 (1989). On November 30, 1989, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed Isaacs’ convictions and sentences and denied rehearing. Isaacs v. State, 259 Ga. at 717, 744. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari. Isaacs v. Georgia, 497 U.S. 1032, reh’g denied, 497 U.S. 1051 (1990).
The State Habeas Corpus Case
Pursuant to an outstanding execution date, on May 2, 1991, Isaacs filed a state habeas corpus petition through “amicus curiae” counsel and was granted a stay of execution by the Butts County, Georgia, Superior Court. A pretrial conference was held on August 24, 1992. New counsel entered the case on Isaacs’ behalf on December 17, 1992. On March 11, 1993, the habeas judge recused himself, and a new judge was assigned the case and conducted a pretrial conference on August 12, 1993. The habeas corpus evidentiary hearing was held on November 18-19, 1993. On June 13, 1994, the habeas corpus court denied relief in an unpublished order. The Georgia Supreme Court denied Isaacs’ application for certificate of probable cause to appeal on April 14, 1995, and denied reconsideration on May 5, 1995. Isaacs v. Thomas, No. S95H0164 (Ga. Apr. 14, 1995) (unpublished). The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on November 27, 1995, and denied rehearing on January 22, 1996. Isaacs v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 1002, reh’g denied, 516 U.S. 1099 (1996).
The Federal Habeas Corpus Case
While Isaacs’ case was pending on rehearing in the U.S. Supreme Court, Isaacs submitted a motion for appointment of counsel pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 848(q)(4)(B) to the United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, which was granted on February 9, 1996. In an order filed November 4, 1996, the district court set a December 6, 1996, deadline for the filing of a habeas corpus petition. Although the order apparently set a deadline for the filing of responsive pleadings, the order was not served on the warden or his counsel for reasons unknown. The federal petition was filed on December 7, 1996. The warden filed his answer after service of the sanctioning order. A status conference was held on April 2, 1997. The parties thereafter briefed the issues of whether the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) applied in this case and what evidentiary development might be necessary. On August 4, 1998, the court ruled that the AEDPA would apply to this case. After oral argument on March 19, 1999, on procedural default and discovery issues and additional briefing, the district court denied relief on the grounds it found to be defaulted and denied discovery on February 25, 2000. The district court eventually denied relief on all grounds on August 25, 2000. Judgment was entered in the warden’s favor on that same date. Isaacs’ motion for reconsideration was denied by the district court on March 6, 2001. The district court granted Isaacs a certificate of appealability on May 2, 2001, on several issues. The case was docketed and briefed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Oral argument was held before the three-judge panel in March 2002. On August 6, 2002, the circuit court affirmed the denial of relief as to the eight grounds presented. Isaacs v. Head, 300 F.3d 1232 (11th Cir. 2002). One member of the panel dissented on a procedural point, but would still have denied relief to Isaacs regardless of which legal test was applied. Rehearing was denied on October 1, 2002. Isaacs then petitioned for review to the United States Supreme Court. Pursuant to the grant of an extension of time, he filed his certiorari petition on February 25, 2003. The warden filed his brief in response on March 14, 2003. Isaacs filed his reply brief on March 21, 2003. On April 21, 2003, the United States Supreme Court denied Isaacs’ request for review. That formally signaled the end of Isaacs’ federal habeas corpus case which challenged his murder convictions and death sentences arising from the retrial in Houston County.
On April 22, 2003, the Superior Court of Houston County filed an execution order, setting the seven-day window in which the execution of Carl J. Isaacs might occur to open at noon, May 6, 2003, and end at noon on May 13, 2003. The Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Corrections then set the specific time and date for the execution as 7:00pm on May 6, 2003.
On April 25, 2003, Isaacs filed a second state habeas corpus petition in Butts County Superior Court. He also filed a motion in Houston County Superior Court to vacate the judgment in the criminal case that led to the execution order. Later that same day, the Houston County Superior Court denied the motion to vacate, and also denied an accompanying request by Isaacs to stay the pending execution.
On May 2, 2003, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles met to discuss whether to grant the clemency petition of Isaacs. Later that day, the State Board of Pardons and Paroles refused to commute the sentence of execution.
On May 2, 2003, the Superior Court of Butts County dismissed the second state habeas corpus petition and denied the accompany motion by Isaacs to stay the execution. On May 5, 2003, Isaacs filed a certificate of probable cause with the Georgia Supreme Court to appeal the denial of relief on the second state habeas corpus petition.
On May 6, 2003, the Georgia Supreme Court denied the certificate of probable cause on Isaacs state habeas petition. Isaacs then appealed that decision to the United States Supreme Court, which denied relief to Isaacs on the evening of May 6, 2003.
On May 6, 2003, Isaacs also filed an original writ of habeas corpus with the United States Supreme Court, alleging that the thirty years that he had spent on death row constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the United States Constitution. The Attorney General’s response brief to the United States Supreme Court pointed out that the sole factor in the delay in carrying out the court-ordered execution of Isaacs had been the numerous stays and appeals sought by Isaacs and urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal as being without merit. The United States Supreme Court responded by dismissing the appeal at just after 7:00pm on May 6, 2003, clearing the way for the execution of Isaacs to take place.