UA 448/91 - USA (Virginia): death penalty: Herbert Bassett
EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/70/91
UA 448/91 Death Penalty 18 December 1991
USA (Virginia) Herbert Bassett
Herbert Bassett is scheduled to be executed in Virginia on 23 January 1992.
He was convicted of the murder of a 16-year-old petrol station attendant, Albert
Burwell, who was shot during a robbery on 23 November 1979.
Bassett was convicted on the testimony of three co-accused. No other
corroborating evidence linked him to the crime. Although the three co-accused
were themselves charged with capital murder they were granted favourable
treatment in exchange for their testimony against Bassett. Two were permitted
to plead guilty as accessories to murder and were given one-year suspended
sentences. The third was acquitted as an accessory.
Bassett's first trial jury could not agree as to his guilt or innocence.
At his second trial he was convicted and sentenced to death. Herbert Bassett
has consistently denied any participation in the murder. His wife, mother and
niece testified at both his trials that he was with them at the time of the
crime. The jury at Bassett's two trials were not aware of the plea bargains
the state had arranged with the co-accused in exchange for their testimony.
As of 23 August 1991 there were 45 prisoners under sentence of death in Virginia.
Twelve prisoners have been executed since 1982 (most recently, Derick Peterson
on 22 August 1991). The method of execution is electrocution.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Telegrams/telephone calls/faxes/express and airmail
- urging Governor Wilder to grant clemency by commuting Herbert Bassett's death
- expressing concern at the absence of evidence to corroborate the accounts
given by three co-accused who were themselves given favourable treatment by
the state in exchange for their testimony against Bassett
- expressing deep alarm at the prospect that Virginia would envisage executing
a prisoner where there are lingering doubts about his guilt.
page 2 of UA 448/91
The Honorable L Douglas Wilder
Governor of Virginia
Richmond, VA 23219
Telegrams: Governor Wilder, Richmond,
Tel: (804) 786 2211
Faxes: (804) 786 3985
[Salutation: Dear Governor]
and to diplomatic representatives of the USA in your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 22 January 1992.