by Donna Copeland and Cari Courtenay-Quirk
Opponents of the death penalty have been demanding that Alex Williams’ sentence of death in Georgia be commuted. In August, we got some good news. With his scheduled execution just days away, the Georgia Supreme Court granted a stay of execution to decide on a series of issues in Alex’s case.
Alex was arrested in March 1986 for the robbery, rape and shooting of a 16-year-old white girl in Augusta, Georgia. After a four-day trial, Alex was convicted and sentenced to death.
But there were many injustices.
First, Alex is African American and accused of murdering a white victim. Statistics show that he is many times more likely to receive the death penalty than if the victim had been Black or he were white.
Second, Alex was only 17 at the time of his offense. As a juvenile offender, he was only eligible to receive the death penalty in Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen… and the United States.
As a child, Alex was mentally and physically abused. He was beaten with barbells, belts, the heel of a shoe and even with a hammer and screwdriver. He was made to stand outside naked and not allowed leave his bed for days or weeks at a time.
A year before the crime, Alex was committed to a psychiatric ward. But he was later released to outpatient care, which he could not afford. While on death row, he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. His family and the prison guards have all reported bizarre behavior, and he has to be forcibly medicated.
Alex’s court-appointed lawyer had a wealth of mitigating evidence available to him for the first trial. But he didn’t use any of it. In fact, five of the eight surviving jurors have signed affidavits saying they would not have sentenced Alex to die if they had heard about his childhood abuse.
Alex’s execution was scheduled for August 24. Letters from around the world, including from those five original jurors, poured in. On August 21, more than 40 people participated in a press conference, organized by the Campaign, outside the office of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The next day, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a stay of execution, citing a number of legal issues.
But the fight for justice must continue! Send a letter opposing Alex Williams’ execution to: Chairman Ray, State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Floyd Veterans Memorial Building, Balcony Level, East Tower, 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, S.E., Atlanta, GA 30334. Fax the board at 404-651-8502, and send an e-mail via the Web site www.pap.state.ga.us.