| William “Billy” Moore, a former death row inmate who was once hours away from execution, shared his experiences and insights with students at Suffolk Law on March 11.
It was 1974 when a young Moore pleaded guilty to the murder of 77-year-old Fredger Stapleton, a friend’s uncle who Moore shot during an attempted home robbery. Moore experienced a religious conversion before his sentencing, and went on to minister in prison, corresponding with hundreds of people outside of prison.
Moore first faced electrocution in a Georgia penitentiary in 1984. Seven hours prior to his scheduled execution, however, the U.S. Supreme Court granted him a stay.
“‘Take those chains off of him,’” Moore remembered a guard saying at the time. “‘Your old cell is still open. And we’ll get you the next time.’”
By the late 1980s, Moore’s case had gone through multiple appeals, reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and been remanded to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His case grabbed national headlines and came to symbolize the battle over capital punishment.
In 1990, he was given a new execution date of August 21. The day prior to his scheduled execution, the Supreme Court granted a 30-day stay, and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles was left to decide Moore’s fate.
By this time, public support had rallied around Moore, with the victim’s family organizing a bus trip to the Parole Board hearings to urge commutation of his sentence. But it might have been the voice of Mother Teresa calling from India, Moore said, that weighed most on the minds of the parole board members.
“‘You need to do what Jesus would do,’” Moore recalled her saying.
All five parole board members voted to commute Moore’s death sentence to life in prison. Thirteen months later, a 39-year-old Moore was paroled on November 8, 1991.
Asked by a Suffolk Law student about the ongoing battle over capital punishment, Moore said that too many people still view it as a remedy for crime.
“I don’t think that it will ever be resolved,” he said.