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USA: Death penalty: Wilfred Berry

, رقم الوثيقة: AMR 51/008/1998

Wilfred Berry is scheduled to be executed in Ohio on 3 March 1998. He was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Charles Mitroff. He has withdrawn his legal appeals and consented to his execution.

EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 51/08/98
EXTRA 14/98 Death Penalty 6 February 1998
USA (OHIO)Wilfred BERRY, white
Wilfred Berry, 33, is scheduled to be executed in Ohio on 3 March 1998. He
was sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of Charles Mitroff. Berry has
withdrawn his legal appeals and consented to his execution.
Berry’s execution would be the first in Ohio since 1963. The state reintroduced
the death penalty in 1981 after the US Supreme Court invalidated its previous
death penalty laws of 1972.
Berry’s co-defendant received a life sentence. However, Berry requested that
he be sentenced to death and refused to cooperate with his lawyers during the
trial.
Previous prison records show that Berry had an extremely abusive childhood
during which he was severely beaten by his mother and was sexually assaulted.
Both his parents suffered from mental problems - his father was diagnosed
as schizophrenic. Berry has made 11 suicide attempts, the first when he was
only 11-years-old. At 14 he was committed to an institution for the severely
emotionally disturbed where he was diagnosed as suffering from severe
schizophrenia but received no further treatment upon release. At the age of
19 he was sentenced to six years imprisonment for car theft in Texas. While
in prison he was raped by another inmate and attempted suicide. Prison doctors
diagnosed Berry as suffering from chronic undifferentiated delusional
schizophrenia.
While on death row, Berry has conducted a letter-writing campaign to be executed.
In December 1997, following numerous mental health evaluations, the Ohio Supreme
Court found that Berry was mentally competent to waive his legal appeals,
stating: “We find that he is capable of making a voluntary, knowing and
intelligent decision.” When asked about the mental evaluations, Berry
indicated his desire to be found competent, stating: “I’ve been studying up.
I know I can pass. I know what they look for. All I’m going to say is I did
it and I should die.”
Ohio’s Attorney General, Betty Montgomery, has supported legislation that would
make assisted suicide illegal in the state. However, she has aggressively
defended Berry’s right to waive his appeals and be executed, stating: “if a
volunteer wishes to have the death penalty, we will concur in that.”
Amnesty International is extremely concerned at the precedent Berry’s execution
would set in Ohio. Berry’s case has not been adjudicated by the judicial system
as warranting a death sentence. It would appear that his sentence is a result
of the state of Ohio complying with his long-term wish to die, thereby making
it a case of state-assisted suicide.
Amnesty International believes that the execution of a prisoner who has chosen
to abandon their appeals and allow the state to execute them is no less a gross
human rights violation than any other execution. The fact that the individual
makes such a choice does not relieve the state of its responsibility in taking
the life of one of its citizens.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
2
As of 1 January 1998, there were 179 prisoners under sentence of death in Ohio.
Prisoners have a choice of methods of execution; lethal injection or
electrocution.
Power to grant clemency rests with the state Governor. The Adult Parole Board
makes a non-binding recommendation to the Governor.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
English or your own language or telephone:
- urging that Governor Voenovich grant clemency to Wilfred Berry by commuting
his death sentence, even though Berry is not requesting clemency;
- expressing concern that the execution of Wilfred Berry would constitute a
case of state-assisted suicide and not an adjudication by the courts that a
death sentence was appropriate in this case;
- expressing concern that Wilfred Berry’s wish to die, and therefore his death
sentence, may stem from the inadequate treatment of his mental illness;
- expressing concern that the Federal Courts have not examined Wilfred Berry’s
case to ensure that his conviction and sentence are within the United States
Constitution;
- expressing sympathy for the victims of violent crime and their families;
- stating that the resumption of executions in Ohio would be a retrograde step
running against international trends.
APPEALS TO:
The Honorable George V. Voenovich
Governor of Ohio
Riffe Center
77 S. High St
Columbus, OH 43215
USA
Telegrams: Governor of Ohio, USA
Faxes: + 1 614 466 9354
Telephone: + 1 614 466 3555
Salutation: Dear Governor
COPIES TO:
Ms. Margarette Ghee
Adult Parole Board
1050 Freeway Dr. North
Columbus, OH 43229
USA
Faxes: + 1 614 752 1251
Telephone: + 1 614 752 1207
Salutation: Dear Ms Ghee
and to diplomatic representatives of USA accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

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