EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/27/95
16 February 1995
Further information on EXTRA 61/94 (AMR 51/88/94, 2 November 1994) - Death
USA (Nebraska) Robert Williams
Robert Williams, black, is scheduled to be executed in Nebraska on 22 March
1995. Williams was last scheduled for execution on 16 November 1994 but was
granted a stay of execution approximately one week beforehand.
Williams was sentenced to death in June 1978, for the rape and murder of Catherine
Brooks, and the murder of Patricia McGarry, both white, on 11 August 1977.
As of 16 September 1994, Williams was awaiting resentencing with respect to
the McGarry case, but is still scheduled to be executed for the murder of
Nebraska carried out its first execution in over 35 years on 2 September 1994,
when the state executed Harold Lamont 'Wili' Otey. As of October 1994 there
were 9 prisoners under sentence of death in Nebraska.
The method of execution is electrocution.
In Nebraska the trial judge is wholly responsible for determining whether or
not the death penalty is appropriate, based on a balancing of "aggravating"
and "mitigating" factors. Concern has been expressed that this may result
in subjective decisions.
The power to grant clemency in Nebraska rests with the State Board of Pardons.
The Board comprises three members: Nebraska's Governor, Secretary of State,
and Attorney General. The involvement of the Attorney General in the state's
clemency decision-making process has been criticised on the grounds that the
Attorney General is not an objective party.
Amnesty International is concerned that the death penalty in the USA is
disproportionately imposed on the basis of race. Racial disparities in death
sentencing in the USA as a whole are borne out by the findings of many research
studies, and were confirmed by the findings of the General Accounting Office
(GAO), an independent agency of the federal government, in 1990. THE GAO review
found that persons convicted of the murder of white victims are far more likely
to be sentenced to death than those convicted of black-victim homicides. These
racial disparities remained after all other legally relevant factors had been
taken into account. Studies have also shown that blacks who kill white victims
are significantly more likely to receive the death penalty than whites who
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or
degrading punishment, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send faxes in English if possible:
- expressing deep concern that Robert Williams is scheduled to be executed