HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Court of Appeals rejected an argument Wednesday from a man serving 40 years after he murdered a man and collected a bounty for the killing.

Theodore David Wills Jr. has been imprisoned since 2007 for murder. He is projected to be released in 2044.

The 45-year-old’s defense argued that Wills had ineffective counsel because his original lawyers told him to accept a deal that was “based on an erroneous and unreasonable interpretation of the agreement,” according to the court of appeals decision on the writ of certiorari.

Julian Lee’s body was found in October 2001 after the Horry County Police Department discovered it in a vacant lot in a remote area of the county. Lee had been shot twice in the back.

Wills was arrested the next month on charges of accessory to murder after the fact, and for obstruction of justice.

In 2005, he was offered a proffer agreement — which is a deal where a defendant provides information to authorities in exchange to potentially avoid additional charges. Under the agreement, Wills’ statements to authorities would not be used against him, as long as a polygraph examination indicated that he wasn’t lying about shooting Lee. If the polygraph pointed to Wills lying about the murder, then the agreement would be terminated and his statement could be used against him at trial and he could face more charges.

Under his attorney’s urging, Wills agreed and told authorities he drove Donnell Green, Mark Williard and Lee to the scene. He thought they were going to rob drug dealers, but then saw Willard shoot Lee. Wills said he talked to drug dealers who had put on bounty on Lee because he’d stolen money from them, that Wills told Willard about it and said he knew that while he knew Willard planned to kill Lee, he didn’t know when Willard would do it.

Both Wills and Willard collected a $5,000 bounty for the murder.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division found that Wills was “deceptive” when he denied lying about Willard shooting Lee, and when he himself said he didn’t shoot him. Because of the results, the proffer agreement was voided, and a grand jury indicted Wills for murder.

Wills’ defense argued that the statement he made under the agreement shouldn’t be used in court because he gave it as part of a plea agreement, according to the court of appeals ruling. His lawyer also said the agreement was “inherently flawed” because “his truthfulness was determined by an unreliable polygraph examination.”

The trial court ruled that prosecutors could show a recording of the proffer session, but said neither the defense nor the prosecution could reference the polygraph exam during the trial.

Wills was found guilty. He appealed, saying that the proffer session interview shouldn’t have been used, and was denied a motion for a new trial.

His lawyer admitted that “looking back on it in hindsight, that would be one area [where he] couldn’t done things differently,” according to information in Wednesday’s ruling. While the lawyer said he questioned the polygraph results, they didn’t schedule for Wills to take another one because he was jailed and they wanted to keep the test a secret.

The solicitor said they offered the agreement because there wasn’t a lot of evidence that Wills shot Lee, according to the newest ruling. The solicitor said he was “really stunned” when Wills admitted that someone would pay him for killing Lee.

Wills was denied a motion for a new trial. The South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that he didn’t receive ineffective counsel because his lawyer thought Wills was going to tell the truth, and so the polygraph results wouldn’t say he was lying.