Further information on EXTRA 52/91 (AMR 51/28/91, 16 August, and follow-up AMR 51/30/91, 22 August) - USA (Louisiana): death penalty: Robert Sawyer
EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/55/91
Further information on EXTRA 52/91 (AMR 51/28/91, 16 August) and follow-up
AMR 51/30/91 (22 August) - Death Penalty
USA (Louisiana): Robert Sawyer
Robert Sawyer is scheduled to be executed in the state of Louisiana on 15 November
1991. Mr Sawyer, white, now aged 40, was sentenced to death on 16 October
1980 for the murder, committed in September 1979, of a white female. Three
execution dates have been set for Mr Sawyer's execution during the past 13
months. This latest date is considered to be extremely serious. A clemency
hearing will be held in Louisiana on 11 November 1991.
According to hospital records, at the age of 16, Mr Sawyer was diagnosed
as being "moderately retarded" and suffering from chronic brain disorder.
Mr Sawyer's present I.Q. is 68; a person of average intelligence has an I.Q.
of 100. Mr Sawyer's mental retardation was discovered only recently after
his case was taken up by a new attorney.
According to reports, Mr Sawyer grew up in a disturbed family environment.
His mother tried several times to kill him and his twin sister while they
were infants. She suffered from post-natal depression and was physically
abused by Mr Sawyer's father. She took her own life while the twins were
infants. Mr Sawyer's father apparently blamed the children for their mother's
This information was not made available to the jury at the sentencing
phase of Mr Sawyer's trial because his trial lawyer allegedly made no
investigation of his background. Consequently the jury was unable to take
these factors into account in their determination of whether to impose a sentence
of death or life imprisonment.
As of 23 August 1991 there were 36 prisoners under sentence of death in
Louisiana. The method of execution in Louisiana was changed from electrocution
to lethal injection on 1 January 1991; coming into effect after 15 September
1991. Andrew Lee Jones' execution on 22 July 1991 was the last to be carried
out by electrocution in the state. Twenty prisoners have been executed under
Louisiana's current death penalty statute since 1983.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment or punishment, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
page 2 of FU EXTRA 52/91
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/faxes/telephone calls/telexes/express letters:
- urging Governor Roemer to grant clemency to Robert Sawyer by commuting his
sentence of death;
- urging the Board of Pardons and Paroles to recommend that the Governor grant
clemency to Robert Sawyer;
- expressing concern that the jury was not told of Mr Sawyer's history of mental
illness/mental retardation and consequently was unable to take these factors
into account in their determination of whether to sentence him to death.
1 The Honourable Charles Roemer
Governor of Louisiana
PO Box 94004
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
Faxes: +(504) 342 0909
Telephone: +(504) 342 7015
Telex: 0255 1099 33256
Telegrams: Governor Roemer, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804, USA
2 Louisiana Board of Pardons and Paroles
504 Mayflower Street
Baton Rouge,LA 70802
Faxes: +(504) 342 6593
Telephone: +(504) 342 5421
Telegrams: Louisiana Pardons Board, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
COPIES TO: Diplomatic representatives of the USA in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY, TO ARRIVE AT THE BOARD OF PARDONS AND PAROLES
BY 11 NOVEMBER 1991; AND TO THE GOVERNOR BEFORE 15 NOVEMBER 1991.