Death sentence commuted for mentally ill man
February 26, 2002
Georgia's parole board Monday commuted the
death sentence of a mentally ill man whose scheduled execution for
killing a teen-age girl raised questions about executing youthful
offenders and the insane.
Alexander Williams had been scheduled for
execution at midnight Monday. His sentence has now been commuted to
life in prison without the possibility of parole, officials said.
"After hearing the psychiatric report this
morning the board deliberated and reached its decision late this
afternoon," a statement from the five-member parole board said.
Williams, 33, was convicted of the 1986
kidnapping, raping and killing of 16-year-old Aleta Bunch. He was 17
at the time of the murder.
"We have the deepest sympathy for the family of
Aleta Bunch and especially her mother, Mrs. Carolyn Bunch," said
parole board chairman Walter Ray. "By making sure that Williams will
remain in an 8-foot by 10-foot prison cell for the rest of his life
with absolutely no hope for parole, we hope that the certainty of
our decision will give Mrs. Bunch the closure she so deserves.
Williams' case had drawn the attention of former
first lady Rosalyn Carter, in part because he suffers from paranoid
"I've been interested in the case of mentally ill
people being executed for a very long time," Carter told CNN's Wolf
Blitzer before the clemency decision was announced.
Williams' mental illness and history of abuse by
his mother and stepmother was never brought up in trial, Carter said.
She added that his defense representation was woeful: "To my
understanding it lasted 15 minutes in the courtroom, and that's not
fair. He should have had good defense."
Other death penalty opponents had taken up
"His attorney did almost no research into his
background. Had he done so, he would have been able to show the jury
evidence both of Mr. Williams's mental illness, and of the
incredible abuse that he suffered as a child. Five of the eight
surviving original trial jurors said that they would not have voted
for the death penalty had they heard more about Mr. Williams,"
according to a statement by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is
unconstitutional to execute the mentally ill. But it has yet to rule
on whether the mentally ill are eligible for the death penalty, if
they are successfully treated by a psychiatrist after the crime is
committed. The human rights group Amnesty International calls that
condition "synthetically sane."
Williams "was denied his right to adequate trial
representation, and he suffers from serious mental illness for which
he has been forcibly medicated on death row," Amnesty International
Through the years, the victim's mother has made
statements in support of Williams' execution.
"I'm really anxious about it," Carolyn Bunch told
the Augusta Chronicle last month. "It would be such a relief if I
could just get a little peace of mind."
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
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
Urgent Juvenile Execution Alert
February 13, 2002: One Week From Today
Mentally Ill and Juvenile Offender Alexander Williams Faces Execution in
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,"
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation planned a probe
to confirm whether Williams' death was a suicide.
25, 2002, Alexander Williams committed suicide in his cell at the
Georgia State Prison.
Mentally ill and juvenile offender
Alexander Williams was granted clemency. On February 25, 2002 the
Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to commute his sentence to
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 facing imminent execution in Georgia. He has nearly
exhausted all remaining avenues of judicial relief and his fate
effectively rests with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Alex
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. 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.
I. LONG BEFORE HIS TRIAL,
ALEX WAS SUFFERING FROM SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS AND HAD BEEN THE VICTIM OF
REPEATED ACTS OF VIOLENCE AND ABUSE
Alex Williams has been diagnosed with schizophrenia
-- 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." Williams believed he was able to communicate with others
telepathically and expressed strange and obsessive religious thoughts to
family members. For example, he currently believes that actress
Sigourney Weaver is God and that she speaks to him. Early in his case,
even the prosecution was aware that Alexander was hearing voices and
completed a form to request a psychological evaluation. None was ever
done prior to his trial or sentencing. While in prison, doctors and
corrections officers have reported a history of bizarre behavior
including crawling around on his belly in order to communicate with
imaginary frogs. Alex is currently being forcibly medicated with
powerful anti-psychotic medications.
Alex endured repeated, indeed continuous, physical
abuse as a child. While an infant, his mother shook him hard and often.
When he was a toddler, she struck him with cooking utensils, sticks,
branches, and the spiked edge of her glass shoes. As a child and young
adolescent, Alex suffered frequent beatings at the hands of his closest
caregivers, his mother and grandmother. Other times, he was punished by
what his mother termed "bed restriction" where he would be forced to
remain on his bed for days -- sometimes even weeks -- completely
isolated from others while receiving only one meal a day. His mother
also forced Alex to stand naked outside of his house and locked the
front door behind him. He was sexually assaulted by his step father.
II. ALEX'S SENTENCING JURY WAS NEVER INFORMED ABOUT HIS
TRAGIC CHILDHOOD AND ITS EFFECTS ON HIS DEVELOPMENT
In the sentencing phase of his case, not one of these
critical facts about Alex's childhood or his mental illness was ever
presented to the jury. This is the type of evidence -- known as
mitigating circumstances -- that jurors are required to consider when
deciding between the death penalty and a sentence of life imprisonment.
The entire sentencing presentation by Alex's defense
attorney lasted less than 15 minutes. Only two witnesses (his mother --
who had been his most persistent abuser -- and a female friend) were
presented by the defense lawyer. All the jury heard was Alex's mother's
opinion that he was a good child who liked comic books. There was no
testimony from those who knew the details about Alex's abuse, mental
illness, and the extraordinary deprivation that he experienced
throughout his young life. Nor was there any testimony from mental
health professionals who could have explained to the jury the mitigating
effects of youth itself as well as the ways in which the horrific abuse,
trauma and mental illness characteristic of Alex's childhood profoundly
and permanently affected his development.
According to the American Society for Adolescent
Psychiatry, psychological and family disturbances, such as those
experienced by Alex, would have seriously "exacerbated the already
existing vulnerabilities of his youth." These were facts that would have
enabled the jury to understand why he was deserving of a sentence less
than the death penalty. A jury that heard the truth about Alex's life
may well have reached a different decision; five of the eight surviving
jurors have signed affidavits that they would not have sentenced him to
death had they known his full history.
III. ALEX WAS REPRESENTED BY AN ATTORNEY WHOSE FAILURES TO
DEFEND CASES PROPERLY AND EFFECTIVELY ARE WELL KNOWN IN THE GEORGIA
In the early 1990's, just a few years after Alex's
trial, his attorney, O.L. Collins, was officially removed from the list
of those qualified to handle criminal cases. In a 1988 hearing in the
case of Billy Sunday Birt, another convicted death penalty client,
Collins revealed his ignorance of even the most basic principles of
criminal law. Collins testified that he knew (only) two criminal cases:
"Miranda and Dred Scott," (Dred Scott had nothing
to do with criminal law; rather it was the infamous 1857 U.S. Supreme
Court case holding that blacks could not be citizens and slaves were
merely property.) In yet another case, defense counsel Collins actually
argued for the death penalty because that was what his mentally
retarded client instructed him to do. Collins was also once publicly
reprimanded by the Georgia Supreme Court for ethical violations when he
improperly retained a client's funds. (In the Matter of Collins,
246 Ga. 325)
In Alex Williams' case, Collins undertook no
investigation and put on the merest pretense of a defense at trial. He
often brought out details about the race of various witnesses and
participants in the case when race was totally irrelevant to the issues
at hand. 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. Again, his entire presentation of evidence at the
sentencing hearing lasted less than15 minutes. His closing argument was
rambling and incoherent. Collins did absolutely nothing to inform the
jury or to advocate for his client at sentencing -- leaving the jury
without compelling, available evidence that would have supported a
verdict of life.
IV. EXECUTING JUVENILE OFFENDERS RUNS COUNTER TO BASIC
AMERICAN STANDARDS OF DECENCY AND FAIRNESS
The execution of a juvenile offender is contrary to
fundamental principles of American justice which punishes according to
the degree of culpability and reserves the death penalty for the "worst
of the worst" offenders. By their very nature, teenagers are less mature,
and therefore less culpable, than adults who commit similar acts but
have no such explanation for their conduct. Adolescence is a
transitional period of life when cognitive abilities, emotions, judgment,
impulse control, and identity are still developing. Indeed, immaturity
is the reason we do not allow those under eighteen to assume the major
responsibilities of adulthood such as military combat service, voting,
entering into contracts, drinking alcohol or making medical decisions. A
number of organizations including the American Bar Association, the
Child Welfare League of America, the Children's Defense Fund, the
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American
Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association,
and the National Mental Health Association have taken a stand against
the juvenile death penalty.
V. EXECUTING JUVENILE OFFENDERS IS CONTRARY TO INTERNATIONAL
In continuing to execute juvenile offenders, the
United States acts in defiance of substantial international consensus
and law. Indeed, such executions have all but ended around the world,
except in the United States. In the last decade, the United States has
executed more juvenile offenders than all the world's nations combined.
Since 1990, only seven countries are reported to have executed prisoners
who were under 18 years of age at the time of the crime: The Democratic
Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the
United States. The nations of Pakistan, and Yemen have since abolished
the juvenile death penalty, while Saudi Arabia and Nigeria deny that
they have executed juvenile offenders. 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. Moreover, just this past year, Iran stated that it no
longer executes juvenile offenders while the leader of the Democratic
Republic of Congo commuted the death sentences of four juvenile
The death penalty for juvenile offenders is expressly
prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR), The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the
American Convention of Human Rights. While the United States has not yet
ratified the CRC and specifically reserved its right to execute
juveniles when ratifying the ICCPR, the execution of Mr. Williams would
further alienate the United States from the international community.
Moreover, it would further damage our legitimacy as a world leader in
the protection and promotion of human rights, particularly the rights of
(258 Ga. 281)
(368 SE2d 742)
Murder, etc. Richmond Superior Court. Before Judge Fleming.
1. The victim, 16-year-old Aleta Carol Bunch,
left school at noon on March 4, 1986, and drove her blue 1984
Mustang automobile to the Regency Mall in Augusta. She prepared
for a modeling assignment, shopped at several stores in the
mall, and left at 3:30 p.m. Her body was found in a remote,
wooded area 11 days later.
On the evening of March 4, Alexander Williams
drove a blue Mustang to a game room on Windsor Springs Road. He
told his friends that it belonged to "a girl." With their
assistance, he disposed of the car by abandoning it on a dirt
road. He retrieved from the car a .22 caliber pistol, a
pocketbook, and a shopping bag. He took the credit cards out of
the purse, and threw the purse and its remaining contents into a
dumpster. The next day, he treated his friends to a shopping
spree at the mall, using the victim's credit cards. He also
distributed items of jewelry the victim had been wearing when
last seen alive, as well as items she had purchased the day of
Williams told his friend John Jones that "she
would never tell" and that he "didn't feel a thing about that
night [and] what he had done to the girl." He told Leon Bacon
that he had met the girl at the mall and followed her outside to
her car. He told her to get in the car and he drove. Then "he
had sex with her . . . [and] . . . she was moaning . . . so to
keep her quiet he shot her." He first told Harold Lester that he
had merely found the credit cards. The next day, however, he
admitted to Lester that "he had killed this girl." He asked
Jerry Smith if he had ever shot anyone before. When Smith
answered yes, Williams asked him what he had done with the body.
Then he admitted to Smith that he had killed a girl he had met
at the mall.
He also admitted to Margaret Jeffords that he
had killed the girl. When Jeffords threatened to report him,
Williams replied, "Well have you ever heard of kill and kill
again? . . . I did it once and you damn well better believe I'll
do it again."
The victim was shot five times -- once in the
chest, and four times in the head. Her body was nude below the
waist, and the crime scene showed signs of a struggle. The
murder weapon was not recovered. However, one of Williams'
friends took investigators to an area where Williams had shot
his gun and they recovered some empty cartridge cases that were
consistent with having been fired from the same gun -- an RG .22
caliber revolver -- as the bullets recovered from the body of
The autopsist testified that the victim had
engaged in sexual intercourse at some indeterminable time in the
past. He further stated, however, that there was a small
contusion or bruise on the back of the vaginal wall," suggesting
that sexual intercourse "occurred immediately surrounding the
time of death."
The defendant contends the evidence is
insufficient. We disagree. The jury was authorized to conclude
from the evidence that Williams accosted the victim in the mall
parking lot, forced her to accompany him to a secluded area
where he raped and murdered her, then took her jewelry, her
pocketbook and her automobile, and used her credit cards the
next day. The evidence supports his conviction on all counts.
Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U. S. 307 (99 SC 2781, 61 LE2d 560)
(1979). Compare Lipham v. State, 257 Ga.
808 (1) (364 SE2d 840) (1988).
2. Williams was arrested March 12. He was
advised of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436
(86 SC 1602, 16 LE2d 694) (1966) by investigator Ronnie
Strength. Williams waived his rights orally and stated that he
wanted to talk to Strength alone, in another room, because he
did not like the one they were in. After relocating, Williams
asked Strength "what kind of prison time" he would serve "if he
talked . . . about the missing girl." Strength advised him that
he "wasn't in the deal-making business, and. . . was not
authorized to make any deals in this case." Then, Strength
He told me that it wasn't a kidnapping, and,
again, wanted me to write out some type of deal on paper if he
talked to me about the girl; of course, again I refused. I
further questioned him on the credit cards that were used at the
mall. He told me that he was at the mall and saw a purse in a
blue car; that the door was unlocked, and that he took the purse
and the credit cards, and that he had gone to the mall and used
them and bought him some tennis shoes, and that the tennis shoes
were at his home under the bed. I asked him a little further
about the car, and he told me that he had left the car in the
parking lot. . . of the mall. . . . He again, for the third
time, asked me about making a deal if he would talk to me about
the missing girl. Of course, for the third time I told him that
I could not make a deal; that I was not authorized to make any
deals. I asked him about his whereabouts on the date and time of
the incident, and, of course, he said that he did not know. At
that point he told me that he had better talk to a lawyer, and
that after he talked to a lawyer that he would talk to me again
about the missing girl. And, of course, at this time, once he
requested a lawyer, I terminated the interview.
Williams refused to sign a written waiver
because he "didn't want to sign anything." His oral waiver was
valid nonetheless, and neither his refusal to sign the waiver
nor his attempt to make a "deal" with his interrogator was an
invocation of his right to a lawyer. When the defendant did
invoke that right, the interrogator terminated the interview.
Edwards v. Arizona, 451 U. S. 477 (101 SC 1880, 68 LE2d 378)
Williams also argues that the officer's
testimony concerning his invocation of his right to counsel
should not have been presented to the jury as a comment on his
exercise of his right to remain silent. See Hill v. State,
250 Ga. 277 (4) (295 SE2d 518) (1982);
Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U. S. 610 (96 SC 2240, 49 LE2d 91) (1976).
The defendant did not remain silent. He discussed the crime, and
then he invoked his right to a lawyer. Doyle v. Ohio does not
apply in this situation. Wainwright v. Greenfield, ---- U. S.
---- (106 SC 634, 642, LE2d ----) (1986) (Rehnquist, J.,
3. The trial court did not err by allowing in
evidence a photograph to show the condition of the victim's body.
4. There is no merit to the defendant's
contention that the court's jury instructions included an
expression of opinion in violation of OCGA
17-8-57 as to what the evidence
proved. The instructions on presumption of innocence were
complete and correct, and it was not error to refuse to give the
defendant's requested instruction on the same principle. Kelly
v. State, 241 Ga. 190 (243 SE2d 857)
5. The court overruled Williams' objection to
the following testimony:
Q. [by DA to investigator Strength]: Who
directed you to that location [where the body was found] out on
Story Mill Road?
Q. Mr. Flanagan . . . is a lawyer?
Q. Who was Alex Williams' lawyer at that
This testimony, Williams argues, violated his
attorney-client privilege, and the trial court erred by
overruling his objection to it.
Our Code recognizes certain privileges,
including the attorney-client privilege, and prohibits the
evidentiary use of communications protected by the privilege.
See OCGA 24-9-21,
The state argues that the privilege was not
violated because (1) Flanagan himself did not testify, (2)
Flanagan would have been guilty of a crime had he not revealed
the location of the body, and (3) the defendant failed to show
that Flanagan learned of the location of the body as a
consequence of a privileged communication from Williams.
(a) While the state is likely correct that
Flanagan had a positive obligation to reveal the location of the
body to law enforcement officers, (see OCGA
16-10-50; compare People v.
Meredith, 631 P2d 46 (Cal. 1981)), it does not follow of
necessity that the state should disclose to the jury the source
of the information that led to the discovery of the body. One
state, at least, has held to the contrary:
We think the attorney-client privilege should
and can be preserved even though the attorney surrenders the
evidence he has in his possession. The prosecution, upon receipt
of such evidence from an attorney . . . should be well aware of
the existence of the attorney-client privilege. Therefore, the
state . . . should take extreme precautions to make certain that
the source of the evidence is not disclosed in the presence of
the jury and prejudicial error is not committed. By thus
allowing the prosecution to recover such evidence, the public
interest is served, and by refusing the prosecution an
opportunity to disclose the source of the evidence, the client's
privilege is preserved and a balance is reached between these
State v. Olwell, 394 P2d 681, 685 (Wash. St.
(b) While the record does not establish
unequivocally that Flanagan learned the location of the body
from the defendant or as a direct result of communications with
the defendant, it is unlikely that Flanagan obtained the
information from another source. Moreover, if the state was not
trying to create an inference that the victim's body was
discovered because Williams had revealed its location to his
attorney, it was not necessary to tell the jury that Flanagan
was Williams' attorney. In short, offering such testimony was a
dangerous practice, and one we disapprove.
(c) Nevertheless, Williams admitted his guilt
many times. The testimony complained of here added nothing
significant to these admissions of guilt, and any error was
6. Williams, who is black, raises an issue of
discrimination in the prosecutor's exercise of peremptory
challenges. See Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U. S. ---- (106 SC 1712,
90 LE2d 69) (1986). The record shows that blacks comprised 24%
of the qualified panel of 42 from which the jury was selected,
and 42% of the qualified panel of 12 from which the three
alternates were selected. The prosecutor used six of his ten
peremptory strikes to excuse blacks from the panel of 42 and one
of his three peremptory strikes to excuse a black from the
alternates. The jury as initially selected included four blacks
(33% of the total), while two of the three alternates were black
(66.7% of the total). Later, one white juror was excused for
medical reasons, and a black alternate took his place. Thus, the
jury which convicted Williams and sentenced him to die included
five blacks -- 41.7% of the total. The facts do not support
Williams' contention that his jury was selected in a racially
discriminatory manner. Aldridge v. State,
258 Ga. 75 (4) (365 SE2d 111) (1988); Gamble v. State,
257 Ga. 325 (4) (357 SE2d 792) (1987).
7. Williams, an indigent, was represented at
trial by an appointed counsel. After the trial, he was relieved
of his appointment, and attorney Richard Allen was appointed to
represent Williams at the post-conviction proceedings. The issue
of effective assistance of counsel was raised on motion for new
trial. After hearing evidence on this issue, the trial court
determined that the defendant received effective assistance of
counsel at trial. Williams contends this finding was erroneous.
The issue is before us properly on appeal. Cook v. State,
255 Ga. 565, 578 (17) (340
SE2d 891) (1986).
Except in unusual circumstances not present
here, the burden is on the defendant claiming ineffectiveness of
counsel to establish (1) his attorney's representation in
specified instances fell below "an objective standard of
reasonableness" and (2) there is "a reasonable probability that,
but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different." Strickland v. Washington,
466 U. S. 668, 695-96 (104 SC 2052, 80 LE2d 674) (1984).
Williams contends his attorney was
ineffective because he (1) failed to object to inadmissible
evidence and improper argument by the prosecutor, (2) failed to
discover and present mitigating evidence, (3) failed to conduct
substantive death-qualification voir dire, to object to the
excusal of qualified venire persons with scruples against the
death penalty, and to challenge venire persons biased in favor
of a death sentence, (4) failed to request the court to
investigate a report that the jury had begun deliberations
prematurely, (5) failed to request a psychiatric evaluation, and
(6) attempted to exclude the testimony of certain state's
witnesses when there was no legal basis for doing so.
At the sentencing phase of the trial, the
state offered in aggravation an indictment, Williams' plea of
guilty to the indictment, and the sentence imposed under the
Georgia First Offender Act, OCGA 42-8-60
et seq., for the offenses of entering an automobile and theft by
taking. His lawyer did not object to this evidence. Williams
contends that because no adjudication of guilt was made under
the terms of the Act and the court's disposition of the guilty
plea is not "considered . . . a criminal conviction," it was
Evidence in aggravation is not limited to
convictions, Devier v. State, 253 Ga. 604
(9) (323 SE2d 150) (1984), and reliable information
tending to show a defendant's general bad character is
admissible in aggravation. Fair v. State,
245 Ga. 868, 873 (268
SE2d 316) (1980). Failure to object was not ineffective
The state also offered in aggravation,
without objection, the testimony of a juvenile probation officer
concerning Williams' unruly conduct ("status offenses" in
juvenile law), and as to three acts of delinquency.
Williams contends that his lawyer should have
objected to this testimony. He contends that the juvenile
probation officer did not witness his activity, but only the
court proceedings generated by it, and that his testimony was
Trial counsel testified at the motion for new
trial that the probation officer's testimony appeared to be
based on records of the juvenile court to which he referred
while testifying. An objection to the testimony would have
resulted in the introduction of the records themselves, and, in
his opinion, would have accomplished nothing. This was not a
Williams contends that his lawyer should have
objected to the prosecutor's closing argument.
The prosecutor told the jury to consider
everything that you have heard during the
course of this . . . trial all of these many things [he gave
some examples], and you will then weigh the one against the
other and you will decide what is the appropriate punishment.
Williams contends this was a misstatement of
law, pointing out that "juries are not required to balance
aggravating circumstances against mitigating circumstances[,]"
Ford v. State, 257 Ga. 461, 464 (360
SE2d 258) (1987), and that, as the trial court charged,
the jury is authorized to impose a life sentence even if it
finds one or more statutory aggravating circumstances and no
mitigating circumstances. The prosecutor's argument was not such
a clear misstatement of law as would compel an objection.
The prosecutor's argument that Williams had
shown no remorse was not an improper comment on his right to
remain silent. Nor do we find improper his argument that "you
are not being asked to do anything but follow the law." It is
clear from the argument as a whole that the prosecutor was
telling the jury only that death was a lawful punishment, not
that the law compelled a death sentence.
Finally, the prosecutor did not exceed the
bounds of permissible argument by asserting that Williams did
not deserve to have his life spared so he could go to the
penitentiary and get free food, housing and medical attention,
while the victim lay in her grave. See Ford v. State,
255 Ga. 81, 93 (335
SE2d 567) (1985).
Two witnesses testified in mitigation on
behalf of Williams -- his mother and a female friend. Williams
contends that at least four additional witnesses should have
been called to testify in mitigation.
Trial counsel testified that one of these
witnesses -- a minister -- told him he knew little about
Williams, and that others, whose names were furnished by
Williams or his mother, did not wish to become involved in the
case. Indeed, even Williams' mother was reluctant to testify,
and she admitted to his lawyer that she had lost control of him
three years before, and knew little of him since that time. None
of the prospective witnesses who Williams now claims should have
been called in mitigation testified at the hearing on the motion
for new trial, and the record does not show what they might have
testified. Compare Cook v. State, 255 Ga., supra. Hence,
Williams has failed to show that their testimony probably would
have resulted in a different verdict.
Williams complains of Collins' failure to
object to the excusal of one prospective juror on Witherspoon
grounds or to ask questions of the juror, and of his failure to
challenge two prospective jurors on reverse Witherspoon grounds.
See, e.g., Pope v. State, 256 Ga. 195 (7)
(345 SE2d 831) (1986).
The voir dire of the excused juror was brief
and his answers somewhat ambiguous, but he stated that he
automatically would vote for a life sentence if the defendant
were convicted. The other two prospective jurors testified that
if the defendant were convicted and the crime "calls for the
death sentence," they would vote to impose it. Their answers did
not show them to be incompetent. Compare Pope v. State, supra.
Trial counsel testified that he felt the
trial court's ruling on the first juror was correct, but that,
in addition, although he could not remember specifically how he
had felt about this particular juror, he "sometimes let people
go off of a jury because they looked like . . . they would be
adamant toward me. . . ." He explained his reasons for not
challenging the other two prospective jurors as follows:
[S]ometimes when you've got a juror who you
think you ought to challenge for cause, maybe you let him stay
because you've got 20 strikes coming to you . . . [S]ometimes
you challenge for cause and you get the jurors coming up -- the
next one's coming up mad at you. And if you do challenge, then
they are going to know how to answer your questions. So you
don't always press it to the ultimate limit every time because
you've got 20 peremptory challenges coming, and you're making
notes . . . I have to play it by ear.
The record does not show that counsel's
decisions concerning the extent of his voir dire examination and
whether or not to interpose challenges were not reasonable
During a recess at the guilt phase of the
trial, the court received a note from one of the jurors that
"some deliberation has begun and I'm concerned . . . that some
jurors may be swayed in their views, thus affecting a future
verdict." The court instructed the jury not to begin its
deliberations until it had heard all of the evidence and had
been instructed by the court on the law.
Williams contends the court's response was
"totally inadequate" and that his lawyer should have asked the
court to question the jurors to determine if any of them "had
formed fixed and unyielding opinions at this point." Counsel's
inaction here simply does not fall outside "the wide range of
reasonable professional assistance" Strickland v. Washington,
supra, 104 SC at 2066. Compare Hill v. State,
250 Ga. 277 (7) (295 SE2d 518) (1982).
Williams complains that his lawyer failed to
request a psychiatric examination. His lawyer testified that he
did not ask for an examInation because: Williams "just never
struck me as being the type of person who needed a psychiatric
evaluation"; Williams' only problem was that he thought he knew
more than his attorney; and he believed he would not be
convicted because the state's witnesses were his friends and
would not testify against him.
At the hearing on the motion for new trial,
Williams' mother testified that while still a juvenile Williams
had spent a week at "Georgia Regional," apparently for a mental
evaluation. This information was not communicated to trial
counsel until after the trial was over.
Assuming that counsel should have known of
the mental evaluation (even though neither Williams, nor his
mother, nor any other members of his family gave him any
information as to any mental problems) and should have pursued
this possible avenue of mitigation, Williams has failed to
establish prejudice. He has not shown why or by whom he was sent
to "Georgia Regional" for an evaluation, or what may have been
the result of such an evaluation. The burden is on the defendant
to show that his attorney's omissions have prejudiced his case
-- here, that he has a mental condition that should have been
investigated and offered in mitigation. He has not done so.
That his lawyer objected to damaging
testimony of state's witnesses was not deficient, even if the
objections lacked merit. Moreover, the defendant's case could
not have been prejudiced by this attempt.
We conclude that Williams was not denied
effective assistance of counsel.
8. Williams raises several claims of error
regarding matters to which no objection was made at trial. These
have been treated above, in the context of his claim of
ineffectiveness of counsel. Because no objection was raised at
trial, we do not address these claims of error directly.
9. Williams argues that because he was 17
years old at the time of the crime, the trial court should have
refused to allow the imposition of a death sentence. OCGA
17-9-3 bars the imposition of the
death penalty when a defendant was under the age of 17 when he
committed the crime. Bankston v. State,
258 Ga. 188 (367 SE2d 36) (1988). Williams' death
sentence does not violate this provision. Legare v. State,
250 Ga. 875 (4) (302 SE2d 351) (1983).
10. The court's instructions on aggravating
and mitigating circumstances were not erroneous. Romine v. State,
251 Ga. 208 (10) (305 SE2d 93) (1983).
11. After the jury had been deliberating for
half an hour on the question of sentence, the foreman reported:
[O]ne of my jurors has asked that he would
rather not decide this case. I don't know what else to do, he
said he don't want no part of it. So I knew nothing else to do
but to address the court with it.
The court responded by stating to the jury:
It is the juror's obligation to decide the
case. Now what the jury wants to decide is of no concern to the
Court, as I have previously instructed you; but it is the
obligation of the jurors to decide the case. That doesn't mean
that you would necessarily agree, you might not be able to agree.
I don't say that you will or you won't, but it is necessary that
the verdict be unanimous. And under your oath as a juror you're
not supposed to go back and just decide, "I don't want to have
anything to do with it." You're in the jury box.
Williams contends this charge was coercive.
There was no error. The trial judge did not tell the jury that
it had to reach a verdict; he only told the jury that it had an
obligation to deliberate and try to reach a verdict. See Romine
v. State, 256 Ga. 521, 525 (1) (350
SE2d 446) (1986) ("[U]nder Georgia law a jury is expected
to review the evidence and to endeavor to reach unanimity 'one
way or the other' on the question of sentence, and, if possible,
to affirmatively and unanimously recommend either death or mercy.")
12. The jury found that the murder was
committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of
kidnapping with bodily injury, armed robbery and rape. See OCGA
17-10-30 (b) (2). The evidence
supports the jury's finding. OCGA
17-10-35 (c) (2).
13. The sentence of death was not imposed
under the influence of passion, prejudice, or other arbitrary
factor, OCGA 17-10-35 (c) (1), and
is neither excessive nor disproportionate to sentences imposed
in similar cases, considering both the crime and the defendant.
OCGA 17-10-35 (c) (3). The similar
cases in the Appendix support the imposition of the death
sentence in this case.
1 The defendant
was sentenced August 29, 1986. He filed a motion for new trial
September 23, 1986, and two amendments thereto on October 2 and
October 13, 1987. The hearing took place on October 14 and 15, 1987.
The motion was denied November 12, 1987. The case was docketed in
this court on January 13, 1988, and was orally argued March 7, 1988.
Sam B. Sibley, Jr., District Attorney, Michael J. Bowers, Attorney
General, Leonora Grant, for appellee.
Allen, for appellant.
DECIDED JUNE 9, 1988.
Still from an official Department of Corrections video of Alex
being forcibly medicated in prison.