Press Releases

NAMI Appeals for Justice in Georgia Death Penalty Case

The State's Own Psychiatrists and The State Itself Already Agree That, as a Matter of Law, Alexander William Suffers From Severe Mental Illness.

Aug 22 2000

Arlington, VA - As the August 24th execution date draws near, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has called on the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Parole to commute the death sentence of Alexander Williams, convicted of kidnapping, rape and murder at the age of 17.

In a letter delivered to the board shortly before a hearing today on Williams' fate, NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn focused exclusively on "clear and uncontroverted evidence that Williams suffered from a severe mental illness before the crime, and that it continues to this day."

"Psychiatrists and psychologists employed by the State of Georgia itself…agree that Mr. Williams has been frequently psychotic and suffers from either schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder," Flynn noted [emphasis in the original text].

As neurobiological disorders of the brain, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder are more closely analogous to Alzheimer's disease and dementia than most mental health problems. Despite compelling evidence, however, Williams' court-appointed attorney never requested a psychiatric evaluation nor raised mental illness as a mitigating factor for the jury's consideration.

Flynn reminded the board that Williams has been "so consistently psychotic" during his fourteen years of incarceration that the State of Georgia frequently has needed to medicate him involuntarily. Since 1996, Williams in fact has been subject to standing orders for involuntary medication. "In obtaining these orders, the State itself, as a matter of law, has proven that he is severely mentally ill," Flynn declared [emphasis in the original text].

NAMI does not excuse the underlying crime nor overlook the suffering of Aleta Carol Bunch, the victim, or her family. But the execution of Williams, Flynn said, will serve no purpose but to compound the original tragedy. It would "run contrary to the spirit of the Eighth Amendment, with its prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, to international law, and to all standards of decency."