UPDATE: US high court won't hear death sentence appeal in Lee County case

JACKSON — The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition to review the case of Mississippi death row inmate William Wilson, who was seeking a new trial in the 2005 slaying of a 2-year-old girl.

The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling by a Mississippi court that rejected Wilson’s claim that a trial judge’s failure to dismiss his lawyers barred a plea deal that might have spared his life.

The Mississippi Supreme Court in 2009 upheld Wilson’s capital murder and death sentence.

Wilson pleaded guilty to capital murder in the death of Mallory Conlee. Wilson was sentenced to death in 2007 in Lee County. He also received 20 years for felonious child abuse.

At the time of the girl’s death, authorities said they had received a report that a motorcycle had fallen on the child’s head. An autopsy showed bruises all over her body and third-degree burns to her feet.

Authorities said the bruises were in several stages of healing, indicating that they had occurred over a time.

The Mississippi court record showed Wilson agreed to plead guilty in March 2007 in exchange for a sentence of life without parole.

However, when questioned by Circuit Judge Thomas J. Gardner III, Wilson said he thought his attorneys could have done a better job. Wilson claimed he hadn’t communicated or seen much of his court-appointed attorneys between his arrest and his plea hearing.

Gardner halted the hearing.

According to the court record, prosecutors withdrew the plea deal, the case continued with Wilson and his same attorneys. Wilson again pleaded guilty and, with no plea bargain, Gardner sentenced Wilson to death.

On appeal, Wilson argued that allowing the case to go on with the same defense team, coupled with their deficient performance, led to the death sentence when prosecutors declined to reach another plea deal.

Prosecutors contended Wilson’s lawyers worked with prosecutors on the plea agreement and Wilson’s exchange with the judge showed they had explained it fully to him. They said the ineffectiveness issue only came up when the judge asked Wilson if he was satisfied with what had been done for him.

The Associated Press

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