EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 51/08/97
EXTRA 23/97 Death Penalty 19 February 1997
USA (Missouri) Roosevelt POLLARD
Roosevelt Pollard, black, is scheduled to be executed in Missouri on 5 March
1997. He was sentenced to death on 27 January 1986 for the murder of Richard
Pollard was last scheduled for execution on 11 January 1995 (see EXTRA 81/94,
AMR 51/105/94, 22 December, and follow-ups). However, two hours before the
execution was scheduled the US Supreme Court issued a stay on the grounds that
Pollard's possible incompetence to be executed because of his mental health
problems. In March 1995, the US Supreme Court sent Roosevelt Pollard's case
back to the Federal District Court for review. Pollard's mental condition has
not improved. However, the Federal District Court recently dismissed Pollard's
claim on a procedural technicality.
Roosevelt Pollard is currently unable to understand that he is to be executed
and does not understand the reason for his execution. He suffers from an
untreated mental condition which has worsened over time. He believes that his
death sentence is the product of a voodoo curse which is too strong and too
dangerous to fight because an even worse curse might be made against him.
According to a clemency petition presented to Governor Carnahan, Pollard's
present attorneys claim that he is incompetent to be executed and that because
of inadequate legal representation in the past, no court has adequately reviewed
evidence relating to his unstable and abusive family life, or his history of
psychological problems. The petition included reports from three mental health
experts who examined Pollard in 1991, 1992, and 1994 and found him to be suffering
from chronic schizophrenia and organic brain damage.
Pollard's attorneys requested that he be placed "in a secure mental heath
facility that will provide medication and a stable environment in which he
will be of no harm to himself or others".
At Pollard's original trial, attorneys failed to carry out an adequate
investigation of his unstable background and his mental retardation, despite
a documented history of school IQ scores ranging from 57 to 64.
According to the clemency petition, Roosevelt Pollard was born to alcoholic
parents. His mother was regularly beaten by Pollard's father, including during
her pregnancy, for which she sought no prenatal care or medical attention.
A few months before his second birthday, Pollard's mother left the family home
because she could no longer suffer the abuse at the hands of Pollard's father.
She returned to seek custody of Pollard approximately six months later. Pollard
received a number of head injuries during his childhood for which he received
no medical attention. According to affidavits from family members, Pollard's
mother was unable to care for him because of her heavy drinking, often dropping
him as a baby when she was drunk; if he cried she would shake him violently
and scream at him until he stopped. Pollard's half-sister claims that while
he lived with his mother she failed to provide money or food and sometimes
whipped him with an electrical cord and that she would often strike him about
the head. Other affidavits from family members, acquaintances and teachers
have noted Pollard's bizarre behaviour, saying that he often would talk to
people who were not there. A recent affidavit by a school teacher says that