TUPELO • A Mooreville man who had his death sentence vacated last year hopes a special judge will allow him to appeal his 14-year-old capital murder conviction.
William Matthew Wilson, now 38, pleaded guilty to capital murder in the death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter and was sentenced to death in May 2007 by Circuit Court Judge Thomas Gardner.
In December 2017, special appointed judge Larry Roberts granted Wilson’s petition for post-conviction relief and threw out the death sentence, citing ineffective counsel. The guilty plea and conviction stand.
While the normal time limit to appeal expired long ago, Wilson hopes Roberts will grant him special permission to appeal the conviction. A hearing is scheduled Monday on Wilson’s out of time appeal.
If he is allowed to appeal the plea and conviction, it would delay the plans of District Attorney John Weddle to have a new sentencing hearing to pursue the death penalty. Without a new sentencing hearing, Wilson would be sentenced by default to life without parole.
“We have it on our schedule to have him resentenced,” Weddle said. “We wouldn’t have to try the case again, since he pleaded. But we would have to collect a lot of information and present it to a jury before they could make a decision.
“If he is allowed to appeal the conviction, that will delay everything.”
Wilson admitted to authorities that Malorie Conlee, 2, would not stop crying on the night of April 28, 2005. He punched the child in the head with his fist three times. Even though the child was unresponsive and “didn’t look right,” Wilson did not seek medical attention for the child for more than eight hours.
The guilty plea and death sentence were upheld by the state supreme court on direct appeal in 2009.
In his PCR petition in circuit court, Wilson argued that his two public defenders rarely talked with him about his case. In his ruling, the judge said the attorneys also failed to prepare for the penalty phase and had no experts to testify as to mitigating factors to keep Wilson from being sentenced to death.
“Most telling, however, is the trial counsel’s failure to have researched the sentencing history of Judge Gardner in similar situations where a jury had been waived in the penalty phase of a capital case,” Roberts wrote.
Gardner presided over two similar cases and sentenced both to death. One of Wilson’s attorneys was on the legal team of one of the previous cases but never explained Gardner’s history to Wilson.