Mentally ill prisoner faces death penalty

By on February 28, 2002

In Georgia last week, advocates for the mentally ill protested against the execution of Alexander Williams, a man believed to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.
Williams, 33, faces the death penalty by lethal injection after he raped and killed 16-year-old Aleta Bunch in 1989.
Williams’ attorneys said that his disorder was in its early stages when he killed Bunch, but since then, it has escalated to a higher scale. His illness has escalated to point in which Williams now believes that Sigourney Weaver is God, and speaks to him.
Not everyone is buying Williams’ story, especially the mother of Aleta Bunch.
According to CNN, Carolyn Bunch insists that Williams is faking the mental illness to avoid being executed. Carolyn feels that when Williams killed her daughter he knew exactly what he was doing, and feels that he should be put to death.
After being convicted for Aleta’s death in 1989, Williams was sentenced to death in 2000 by the electric chair. The Supreme Court, who investigated if death by the electric chair was unconstitutional, then halted the death sentence. The state of Georgia later shifted its law of execution to injection.
The case is being halted once again today, because of a variety of protestors and religious leaders who feel that Williams has been given drugs to make him sane for execution.
Currently, Georgia (along with 18 other states) bans the execution of the mentally ill. This has allowed for Williams case to stand before the Supreme Court to rule on the decision of medicating prisoners to make them “sane” for execution.
The execution of Williams has now been placed on stay, until the ruling of the Supreme Court has been reached.
The question of the death penalty and the mentally ill was brought to the attention of Quinnipiac students for their response.
“Execution is definitely not the answer here,” said Latasha Conyers, a senior English major.
“Although he is wrong in what he did, killing him is not going to help answer any questions. I believe the best alternative here is therapy. If he seriously didn’t know what he was doing because of his illness, he should be punished, but not by death. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Jason Deger, a senior mass communications major agrees.
“To be honest with you, I think it’s a cowards way out. If they went through some type of therapy, they could be treated. As far a capital punishment in general, I’m not really sure how I stand. I do know that keeping somebody in a cell for life would probably be more punishment than killing them.”
Melissa Druehl, also a senior majoring in Communications feels differently towards capital punishment.
“As far as the mentally-ill are concerned, I do believe that therapy would be helpful if they are found to be truly ill. As far as capital punishment in general, I believe it was created to scare people not to commit such acts as murder. Its there for a reason.”


About Chris McLaughlin- Georgia Corr