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Old 06-06-2005, 07:18 PM
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Default Article: Death-row inmate who saved 2 lives to get new sentencing hearing

Death-row inmate who saved 2 lives to get new sentencing hearing
Man convicted of rape, murder rescued two people within three days years earlier

By BILL RANKIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/06/05
A Georgia death-row inmate once dubbed a "guardian angel" for saving two people's lives must receive a new sentencing trial, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The court threw out the capital sentence against William Marvin Gulley after finding his trial lawyers failed to show jurors that Gulley had previously saved the lives of two people in Atlanta during a three-day span in 1992.

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In 1998, a Dougherty County jury sentenced Gulley to death for killing an 81-year-old Albany woman and then raping her 60-year-old daughter. Gulley had broken into the house in December 1994 and beat both women with a stick and a shotgun after they returned home and found him inside. He then stabbed Mary Garner to death before raping her daughter.

During the trial, prosecutors also presented evidence that Gulley killed a 49-year-old woman and her 84-year-old mother in East Point only a week before the incident in Albany. He was never formally charged in those killings.

Before Gulley's trial, his defense team became aware of a 1992 Atlanta Constitution article about Gulley saving two lives. But the lawyers did not find any of the survivors or their family members.

Justice George Carley, writing for a unanimous court, wrote that "it appears none of Gulley's attorneys took responsibility to ensure that the reports of his saving two lives were properly investigated," even though there were "fairly obvious avenues" to explore.

"Whatever our own opinions may be about the sentencing verdict in this case . . . there is a reasonable probability that evidence of Gulley's having saved two persons' lives, at risk to his own life, would have changed that sentencing verdict," Carley wrote.

Gulley, who was a painter at the time, first saved co-worker Dan O'Connor's life at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Buckhead after O'Connor struck an electrical current with his power drill as he stood on a ladder. Gulley walked up and found O'Connor convulsing. He kicked away the ladder, breaking O'Connor's contact with the current before he was electrocuted.

Two days later, Gulley went to Grady Memorial Hospital to bring flowers to O'Connor. When he got off the 10th floor elevator, a mentally disabled patient ran past him, smashed a window and tried to jump. With the help of O'Connor's brother, who also had come to the hospital, Gulley pulled the woman inside before she could commit suicide.

Gulley, whose arm was cut during the struggle, was a "guardian angel" for saving the lives, O'Connor's wife told the Atlanta Constitution.

O'Connor, who once worked at the Ritz Carlton's engineering department, said in a sworn statement signed in 2001 that Gulley was a skilled painter who would not leave the hotel until the job was done.

"I owe Bill Gulley my life," O'Connor said. "I know that Bill Gulley has been convicted of murder and other offenses and is on death row. But I also know that Bill Gulley has saved lives, including my own."

Richard O'Connor, who helped pull the female patient back inside the hospital, called Gulley "a man of courage and compassion." As for his sister-in-law calling Gulley "our guardian angel," she was right, O'Connor said in a 2001 statement.

"In Mr. Gulley, we had all met an everyday person willing to extend himself to his fellow man with a true generosity of spirit, dignity and grace, and at no small risk to himself."

Gulley's appellate lawyer, Brian Kammer, praised the Georgia Supreme Court's decision. "It affirms that thorough investigation can provide a jury with compelling mitigating evidence that might swing their minds," he said.

Dougherty County District Attorney Ken Hodges expressed disappointment with the ruling.

"Even if he'd saved 30 lives, it doesn't take away the evil that he inflicted on the 13th of December in 1994 and the week before in East Point," Hodges said. "He committed horrific crimes."

Hodges noted that the D.A.'s office had offered Gulley a sentence of life without parole before trial and that Gulley was not willing to accept it.
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