EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/22/94
EXTRA 20/94 Death Penalty 8 April 1994
USA (Florida): Roy Stewart
Roy Stewart is scheduled to be executed in Florida on 20 April 1994 despite
doubts about his guilt of the crime for which he was sentenced to death.
Roy Stewart, white, was sentenced to death in July 1979 for the murder of Margaret
Haizlip, white, in February 1979. According to information received from his
current attorney, Stewart was convicted on his own confession, which he
retracted at trial, and the testimony of a witness. The witness agreed to
testify against Stewart in exchange for lesser charges in connection with an
unrelated incident and has since recanted her testimony against Stewart.
Stewart's current attorneys claim that he confessed under police pressure and
because of his disturbed mental state.
In a letter to the state governor's office requesting a clemency hearing,
Stewart's attorneys argue that there is no physical evidence to link Stewart
to the crime and that new evidence proves he is innocent. This evidence includes
the testimony from a former prosecutor, who represented the state for six years
at appeal level, which refers to inconsistencies with Stewart's confession
and the actual physical evidence of the crime. The prosecutor has stated that
his doubts about Stewart's guilt increased as he became more involved with
the case and that his desire to express his concerns resulted, according to
him, in "threats" from another prosecutor within the State Attorney's Office.
According to Stewart's attorneys, both state prosecutors who prosecuted
Stewart at trial also oppose his execution.
Although Stewart had a clemency hearing in 1983, according to his attorneys
none of this new evidence was available at that time. (In Florida clemency
hearings are held relatively early on in the judicial process. The state
governor holds a hearing in each case after a death sentence has been confirmed
by the Florida Supreme Court).
While Amnesty International is unable to comment on the substance of the claims
of innocence in Roy Stewart's case, it strongly supports the call for, at the
very least, a clemency hearing for these issues to be considered.
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 or
degrading treatment or punishment as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights.
One of the most compelling arguments against the use of the death penalty is
the risk that innocent people may be executed. Serious miscarriages of justice
in capital cases have already occurred in the USA and will do so again. (See
AI report "USA: the Death Penalty; The Risk of Executing the Innocent", AI
index: AMR 51/19/89, June 1989). A research study issued in 1987 and revised
and updated in 1992 found 350 cases between 1900 and 1985 of defendants
wrongfully convicted in capital or potentially capital cases. The study
identified 23 wrongful executions over the period 1900 to 1991.
International standards provide guarantees to protect people who may have been
wrongfully sentenced to death. For example, United Nations Economic and Social