Troy man on death row

Published 10:02 pm Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of a Troy man Wednesday, making him the only Pike County inmate to be on death row.

Troy’s Holly Wood was convicted of shooting and killing his former girlfriend in 1993.

Ruby Lois Gosha, then 34, of Troy, was shot in the head with a shotgun by Wood on Sept. 1, 1993 as she was lying in bed.

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Wood, 33 at the time, was arrested at his father’s home in Luverne, where a 12-gauge shot gun was found under a pile of leaves, as was reported in The Messenger’s archives.

The court would not overturn his death sentence in a 7-2 vote Wednesday.

Pike County District Attorney Gary McAliley, who was a judge at the time, said the case started in the Pike County District Court, leading to a Grand Jury indictment and a trial in the Pike County Circuit Court.

“He exhausted all his state remedies — the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, Alabama Supreme Court, then Federal Court, arguing his constitutional rights had been violated,” McAliley said.

It was in federal court, a judge tossed out the death sentence on the basis Wood’s lawyer failed to tell jurors Wood had an IQ of less than 70 and had been classified as mentally retarded, reported the Associated Press.

Then in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, the death penalty was reinstated, arguing Wood “failed to show that the lawyer was unconstitutionally ineffective.”

“It is very rare the U.S. Supreme court will even hear a case,” McAliley said.

But, the court did and determined the death sentence should not be overturned.

“Even if it is debatable, it is not unreasonable to conclude that…counsel made a strategic decision to not inquire further into the information contained in the report about Wood’s mental deficiencies and not present to the jury such information,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, according to the AP.

McAliley agreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“He was a most dangerous person, and we’re very fortunate he doesn’t hurt more people,” McAliley said.

“Society is better off with him locked up for as long as he can be.”

McAliley said Wood is the third in the district to be on death row, along with Elba’s Willie Simmons Jackson and Billy Joe Magwood also in line.

“That will place him in line for execution in the state of Alabama,” McAliley said.