Ford v. TateAnnotate this Case
In 2005, Nicholas Tate pleaded guilty to the murders of Chrissie Williams and her three-year-old daughter, Katelyn, and to numerous related crimes. He waived his right to a jury trial as to sentencing for the murders. At the conclusion of a sentencing bench trial, the trial court found several statutory aggravating circumstances and sentenced Tate to death for each of the murders. The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Tate’s convictions and death sentences. On January 31, 2012, the day that his execution was scheduled to occur, Tate filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and a motion for a stay of execution. Tate’s execution was stayed, and he amended his petition on May 16, 2013. The habeas court conducted an evidentiary hearing on June 9-10, 2014, and, in an order filed on December 27, 2018, the court denied relief with respect to Tate’s convictions but granted relief with respect to his death sentences after finding that Tate received ineffective assistance of counsel at the sentencing trial. In case number S19A0825, the Warden appealed the habeas court’s vacation of Tate’s death sentences, contending that the habeas court erred by concluding trial counsel were prejudicially deficient in investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at the sentencing trial, and in denying the Warden the opportunity to call Tate as a witness at the habeas evidentiary hearing. In case number S19X0826, Tate cross-appealed, contending the habeas court committed reversible error in denying several claims, including several instances of ineffective assistance of counsel, the violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial, the State’s pursuit of contradictory theories, and post-conviction counsel’s conflict of interest. In the Warden’s appeal, the Supreme Court reversed and reinstated Tate’s death sentences. In Tate’s cross-appeal, the Court affirmed.