Letter from Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D., Executive Director, to Walter S. Ray, Chairman, Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole

Feb 21 2001

Mr. Walter S. Ray, Chairman
State Board of Pardons and Parole
Floyd Veterans Memorial Building
Balcony Level, East Tower
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Dear Chairman Ray:

In August, 2000, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) wrote a detailed letter asking you to spare the life of Alexander Williams, a man with a longstanding severe mental illness, by commuting his death sentence to a more humane alternative sentence. Today, NAMI once again respectfully requests that the parole board commute Mr. Williams' sentence. NAMI, with more than 210,000 members, is the nation's leading voice for people with severe mental illness and their families.

The execution of an individual as profoundly ill as Alexander Williams runs contrary to the spirit of the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution with its prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, to international law, and to all standards of decency.

In our previous letter (attached), we provided extensive documentation from the medical record clearly and unequivocally establishing that Mr. Williams suffers from a severe mental illness of longstanding duration. In the ensuing two years, the symptoms of Mr. Williams schizophrenia have been so severe that the State obtained a standing involuntary medication order to ensure that he would be sufficiently competent to be executed.

While requesting commutation of the death sentence, NAMI does not excuse Alexander Williams' crimes, nor overlook the suffering of Aleta Carol Bunch, the victim, and her family. However, executing Mr. Williams will not serve any useful purpose in this case. Mr. Williams' mental illness is so severe that there are serious doubts that he understands the nature of the punishment scheduled to be meted out on February 20th. Moreover, it is beyond comprehension that the death penalty has any effective deterrent effects in cases attributable to psychotic delusions caused by untreated mental illnesses.

A just and proper course in this case would be to incarcerate Mr. Williams in a secure facility where he can receive the treatment he so desperately needs, while also protecting the public welfare. Once again, I respectfully urge the parole board to commute Alexander Williams' death sentence. Thank you for your careful consideration of this urgent request.

Sincerely,

Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D
Executive Director