EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/118/92
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EXTRA 95/92 Death Penalty 5 November 1992
USA (Alabama): Cornelius SINGLETON
Cornelius Singleton is scheduled to be executed by the state of Alabama, USA,
on 20 November 1992.
Cornelius Singleton, black, aged 36, was convicted of the November 1977 murder
of Sister Ann Hogan, a white Roman Catholic nun. He is mentally retarded,
with an IQ between 58 and 69 (a person of average intelligence has an IQ of
100). Cornelius Singleton was tried and originally sentenced to death by an
all-white jury which was given no information about his mental retardation.
This sentence was later reversed but he was resentenced to death by a judge
sitting without a jury. According to reports, some evidence of his mental
retardation was presented to this second hearing, but was disregarded.
Archbishop Lipscomb of Alabama made a statement in August 1992 which referred
to Cornelius Singleton's case and called on Governor Hunt to show mercy by
granting clemency. Calls for clemency have also come from some of the Catholic
nuns in the order to which Sister Ann Hogan belonged.
The last prisoner to be executed in Alabama was Larry Gene Heath, white, on
20 March 1992. The method of execution is electrocution. The governor of
Alabama has full clemency authority.
Studies carried out in the USA have suggested that the death penalty is applied
disproportionately on the grounds of race, particularly with regards to the
race of the victim. Amnesty International does not have recent figures, but
statistics produced by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund from 1976 to 1986 on the
race of victims killed by persons sentenced to death in Alabama show that only
three black victim killings resulted in a white offender being sentenced to
death. Over fifty percent of prisoners under sentence of death in Alabama
are black. Blacks constitute just over a quarter of the Alabama general state
The results of a public opinion poll conducted by the university of Alabama
in November 1989, indicated that the majority of people from Alabama oppose
the death penalty for people with mental retardation. Legislation to prevent
the execution of the mentally retarded in Alabama will be introduced for