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Alexander E. WILLIAMS





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (17) - Mentally ill - Kidnapping - Rape -
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 4, 1986
Date of arrest: 8 days after
Date of birth: 1968
Victim profile: Aleta Bunch, 16
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Augusta, Georgia, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on August 29, 1986. Commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole on February 25, 2002. Committed suicide by hanging himself with his shirt at the Georgia State Prison on November 25, 2002

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 schizophrenia.

"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 Williams' cause.

"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 said.

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 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.


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.

  • 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.

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 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.


On November 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 life imprisonment.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 offenders.

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 children.




(258 Ga. 281)
(368 SE2d 742)

WELTNER, Justice.

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 her death.

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 victim.

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 testified:

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) (1981).

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., concurring).

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) (1978).

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?

A. Doug Flanagan.

Q. Mr. Flanagan . . . is a lawyer?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Who was Alex Williams' lawyer at that time?

A. Doug Flanagan.

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, 24-9-24 and 24-9-25.

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 conflicting interests.

State v. Olwell, 394 P2d 681, 685 (Wash. St. 1964).

(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 harmless.

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 inadmissible.

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 assistance.

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 therefore hearsay.

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 deficiency.

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 tactical decisions.

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.

Richard E. Allen, for appellant.




Still from an official Department of Corrections video of Alex Williams
being forcibly medicated in prison.



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