February 25, 2002 - Granted clemency by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole. His sentence was commuted to Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Alexander Williams, who was just 17 years old and mentally ill at the time of his offense (March 4 1986) and who remains profoundly mentally ill, may soon face electrocution in Georgia. The victim was 16-year-old Aleta Carol Bunch who was last seen alive on the day of the crime in a shopping center in Augusta, Georgia. Eight days later, 17 year old Williams was arrested. The body of the victim showed that she had been abducted, robbed, raped and shot. After a four-day trial in August 1986, Williams was sentenced to death where he has been ever since. He has all but exhausted remaining avenues of judicial relief. Williams was represented by a lawyer who failed to present to the sentencing jury any of the compelling evidence regarding Alex's youth, severe mental illness and chronic childhood abuse.
Long before his trial, Alex was suffering severe mental illness and has been the victim of repeated acts of violence and abuse. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Early in this case, even the prosecution was aware that Alex was hearing voices and completed a form to request a psychological evaluation. No examination was ever completed prior to his trial/sentencing. Alex endured repeated and continuous physical abuse as a child. He was also punished with 'bed restriction' where he was forced to remain on his bed for days, even weeks receiving only one meal a day. No mitigating factors were presented to the jury in the sentencing phase of his case. The entire sentencing/presentation by Alex's defense attorney lasted less than 15 minutes. For more information see:
Urgent Juvenile Execution Alert
February 13, 2002: One Week From Today Mentally Ill
and Juvenile Offender Alexander Williams
Faces Execution in Georgia
Alexander E. Williams -- who was just 17 years old and mentally ill at the
time of his offense, and who remains profoundly mentally ill -- is scheduled
to be executed next Wednesday, February 20th, in Georgia. He was sentenced to
death in 1986 for the rape and murder of 16 year-old Aleta Carol Bunch. In
appealing for clemency on behalf of Alex Williams, we do not, in any way,
seek either to excuse the crime or to minimize the pain and suffering it
caused the family and friends of Ms. Bunch.
Alex Williams has nearly exhausted all remaining avenues of judicial relief
and his fate will soon rest with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.
He was represented by a lawyer who failed to present to the sentencing jury
any of the compelling evidence regarding Alex's youth, severe mental illness,
and chronic childhood abuse. His execution would be contrary to American
standards of justice, fairness, and decency as well as international law.
This is a call for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison.
For additional information, updates, clemency appeals, and news coverage on
this case, please visit http://www.abanet.org/crimjust/juvjus/williams.html
- Alex Williams had a history of mental illness that manifested itself before the crime. He was also a victim of severe ongoing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
- Alex has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder with bipolar features. Schizophrenia is a profound psychotic disorder that affects the processing of thoughts and beliefs and nearly every level of functioning. Alex began having hallucinations and hearing voices several months prior to the crime; his father described Alex as being disconnected from reality and living in a "dream world."
- In 1990 his sister wrote in an affidavit that: "My mother made him strip naked,
and she whipped him with extension cords or fan belts over and over again...
Once she got mad at Alex and she called him downstairs. She had a hammer
in one hand and a screwdriver in the other. She made [Alex] stand still
and she pounded the screwdriver into his toes with the hammer." Their
mother also frequently made Alex strip naked and locked him outside the
house at night as punishment.
- Alex Williams' attorney, O.L. Collins, undertook no investigation in his case and put on the merest pretense of a defense at trial. He made no effort to investigate the details of Alex's life, abuse, and mental illness, nor did he present even one mitigating fact to the sentencing jury. His entire sentencing presentation lasted less than 15 minutes. Five of the eight living jurors have signed affidavits that they would have sentenced Alex to life imprisonment had they know his history of abuse and mental illness.
- Executing juvenile offenders runs counter to basic American standards of decency and fairness and is contrary to international law and fundamental standards of human rights. Indeed, such executions have all but ended around the world. In the last three years the number of nations that execute juvenile offenders has dropped significantly to only three: Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States.
- The death penalty for juvenile offenders is expressly prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the American Convention on Human Rights and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The United States and Somalia (which has no recognizable government) are the only two countries that have failed to ratify the CRC -- 191 nations have adopted the fundamental standards articulated in this treaty.
- Many voices have appealed for clemency in this case including former first lady Rosalynn Carter, Atlanta Archbishop John Donahue, the American Bar Association, the Children's Defense Fund, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and the European Union.
Even though the Governor has no formal role in the clemency process, we
recommend that letters to the Board of Pardons and Paroles be copied to the
Governor at the below address. Please convey the following points when
writing the Board:
- your sympathy for Ms. Bunch and the suffering her friends and family have endured since her death;
- your concern that executing Alex Williams for a crime committed as a juvenile violates clearly established international law and fundamental standards of human rights, and that by doing so we join company with only Iran and the Democratic Republic of Congo;
- your concern that Alex Williams' attorney did not do his job by failing to give the jury a clear picture of his life, and that this failure likely made the difference between a life and death sentence;
- your concern that it is unethical to forcibly medicate a prisoner to make him competent for execution;
- urging Georgia to live up to our best American impulses as protectors of human rights around the world and commute Alex Williams' sentence to life imprisonment.
Mr. Walter S. Ray, Chair
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles
Floyd Veterans Memorial Building
Balcony Level, East Tower
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-4909
Fax: (404) 651-8502
Governor Roy E. Barnes
203 State Capitol
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Fax: (404) 657-7332
Because the Board of Pardons and Paroles occasionally has problems with its fax machine, please fax a copy of letters sent to the Board to Alex's attorneys at (404) 222-9231.
February 20, 2002
Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles grants a five day stay of execution.
February 25, 2002
Granted clemency by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole. His sentence was commuted to Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Killer Who Got Off Death Row Apparently Commits Suicide in Cell
Tuesday, November 26, 2002 Posted: 6:08 PM EST (2308 GMT)
AUGUSTA, Georgia (AP) -- A killer whose death sentence was commuted to life in prison earlier this year because of his severe psychosis has apparently killed himself in his cell, prison officials said.
Alexander Williams, 34, of Augusta, hanged himself with his shirt late Monday at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, said Peggy Chapman, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections.
He was 17 in 1986 when he raped and murdered 16-year-old Aleta Bunch, who was kidnapped from an Augusta mall where she had gone to buy her mother a birthday gift.
Williams was sentenced to death, but his case drew the attention of death penalty opponents because he was a diagnosed schizophrenic who sometimes thought actress Sigourney Weaver was God. He would have been the first person in the United States who had to be forcibly medicated to make him sane enough to be executed.
Just days before his scheduled execution in February, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted Williams' sentence to life in prison.
Religious leaders and former first lady Rosalynn Carter had been among those who sent letters to the parole board protesting Williams' death sentence.
Williams' attorneys argued that his paranoid schizophrenia was in its early stages when he committed the crime, but that in later years his illness became so severe that he believed Weaver was God and spoke to him.
Aleta's mother, Carolyn Bunch, had made several trips to Atlanta to urge the parole board to reject clemency.
"It's just not right to keep putting us through this," she said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation planned a probe to confirm whether Williams' death was a suicide.