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EXTRA 81/94 - USA (Missouri): death penalty: Roosevelt Pollard

, N° d'index: AMR 51/105/1994

Roosevelt Pollard, black, is scheduled to be executed in Missouri on 11 January 1995. He was sentenced to death for murder in 1986. Pollard's present attorneys claim that he is incompetent to be executed: he reportedly cannot understand the reason for his execution. Because of allegedly inadequate legal representation in the past, evidence of his psychological problems and unstable and abusive family life has not been adequately reviewed by any court.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/105/94
Distr: UA/SC
EXTRA 81/94 Death Penalty 22 December 1994
USA (Missouri) Roosevelt POLLARD
Roosevelt Pollard, black, is scheduled to be executed in Missouri on 11 January
1995. He was sentenced to death on 27 January 1986 for the murder of Richard
In a clemency petition presented to Governor Carnahan, Pollard's present
attorneys claim that he is incompetent to be executed; that he cannot understand
the reason for his execution; and that because of past inadequate legal
representation, no court has adequately reviewed evidence relating to his
unstable and abusive family life, or his history of psychological problems.
The petition includes reports from three mental health experts who examined
Pollard in 1991, 1992 and 1994 who found him to be suffering from chronic
schizophrenia and organic brain damage.
Pollard's attorneys are requesting that he be placed "in a secure mental health
facility that will provide medication and a stable environment in which he
will be of no harm to himself or others". As they have only recently taken
over the case, the attorneys are requesting, as a minimum, an indefinite stay
of execution so that they can fully prepare and present the "extensive amount
of evidence" which will be needed for Governor Carnahan to make an informed
decision as to whether Roosevelt Pollard should live or die.
Pollard's trial attorneys failed to carry out an adequate investigation of
his unstable background or his mental retardation, despite a documented history
of school IQ scores ranging from 57 to 64. None of this information was
presented to the jury which sentenced him to death. During his closing statement,
one of Roosevelt's trial attorneys actually admitted to the trial court:
"...here I am before you, after about four days of trial, and I'm supposed
to argue for life. And I'm not really prepared... I knew that the possible
punishment on this charge was death. I knew that. And yet I didn't like to
think about it. I probably could have been really working up an argument at
this phase of the trial, probably times I should have been working on it when
I just decided not, I'd rather do something else. I didn't want to think about
it too much. In that respect I'm not really prepared to talk to you about
life...I'm not the right person to be talking to you about life, but I guess,
you know, I'll just have to do the best I can, I reckon".
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.
On one occasion he choked her until she lost consciousness. A few months before
his second birthday Pollard's mother left him with his father because she could
no longer suffer the abuse at the hands of Pollard's father. She returned
to seek custody of Pollard about six months later; from then on Pollard was
shuttled to and fro between his parents. Roosevelt's mother often left alcoholic
beverages within Roosevelt's reach, and at the age of 2 or 3 he would drink
them, "often to the point of passing out". 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 Roosevelt Pollard 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. Roosevelt's half-sister claims that while
Roosevelt 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 Roosevelt's bizarre behaviour, saying that he often would talk to
people who were not there. A recent affidavit by a school teacher says that
she considered Roosevelt a very disturbed child. Bizarre behaviour including
hallucinations and delusional thoughts and psychosis is also recorded by various
prison personnel.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation
of the right to life, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
An additional concern to the organization is that the execution of Roosevelt
Pollard would be in contravention of United Nations Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC) resolution 1989/64, adopted in May 1989, which recommends "eliminating
the death penalty for persons suffering from mental retardation or extremely
limited mental competence".
As of 20 July 1994, there were 91 prisoners under sentence of death in Missouri.
The most recent person to be executed there was Frank Guinan on 6 October
1993. The method of execution is lethal injection. In Missouri, the Governor
has final clemency authority; the Board of Probation and Parole submits
recommendations to the Governor.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please telephone, or send telegrams/faxes/express letters
in English, if possible:
To Governor Carnahan
- urging Governor Carnahan to grant clemency to Roosevelt Pollard by commuting
his sentence of death;
- urging Governor Carnahan to at least grant a stay of execution to allow
Roosevelt Pollard's attorneys to fully prepare and present all the evidence
on the case;
To the Board of Probation and Parole
- urging that they recommend that Governor Carnahan grant clemency to Roosevelt
To both:
- expressing concern that important evidence about Roosevelt Pollard's chronic
schizophrenia and brain damage and family history was not presented to the
jury responsible for sentencing him to death, and that this evidence has never
been adequately reviewed by a court of law;
- expressing Amnesty International's belief that his execution would violate
United Nations ECOSOC safeguards, given above
1) The Honourable Mel Carnahan
Governor of Missouri
PO Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102, USA
Telegrams: Governor Carnahan, Jefferson City, MO 65102, USA
Faxes: + 1 314 751 1495
Telephone: + 1 314 751 3222
Salutation: Dear Governor
2) Department of Corrections
Mr Cranston Mitchell, Chairman, and Members of the Missouri Board of Probation
and Parole
117 Commerce Drive
Jefferson City, MO 65109, USA
Telegrams: Chairman Mitchell, Missouri Pardon Board, Jefferson City, USA
Faxes: + 1 314 751 4099
Telephone: + 1 314 715 2389, + 1 314 715 4949
Salutation: Dear Chairman and Board Members
The Letters Editor
Kansas City Star
1729 Grand Avenue,
Kansas City, MO 64108, USA
Faxes: + 1 816 234 4926

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