The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a stay of execution Tuesday to a man who is so delusional, according to prison records, that he believes actress Sigourney Weaver is God and talks to him.
The board acted just a day before the state was going to execute Alexander E. Williams IV for the 1986 murder of Aleta Carol Bunch, a high school student and teenage model.
Williams has been diagnosed as a "chronic paranoid schizophrenic" and has been forcibly medicated. The five-member board acted after hearing from supporters of his, including the president of the National Mental Health Assn., as well as from the victim's mother, who said, "I don't think he deserves to live anymore."
The board issued a stay until Monday night, saying that "additional time is required . . . to consider and pass on the substance of the claims offered" in support of Williams' bid for clemency.
Kathy Browning, a spokeswoman for the board, said the stay could be dissolved, clearing the way for execution, or extended up to a total of 90 days. The board also could grant clemency.
Williams' lead lawyer, Mark E. Olive, said he was pleased with the board's action but quickly added, "We have no intention of letting the attention die down." Williams' attorneys also have asked the Supreme Court to review the case again. In addition to Williams' severe mental illness, they have stressed the fact that Williams was 17 when he murdered Bunch. Most nations in the world have banned executions for juvenile offenders such as Williams.
The Williams case has become a rallying point outside the United States for opponents of capital punishment, with appeals to stop the execution coming from top officials of the European Union and the United Nations, as well as from international human rights groups, including Amnesty International.
On Tuesday, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, joined the calls for commutation. The former Irish president said in a statement at U.N. headquarters that there is "compelling evidence" that Williams suffers from severe mental illness and noted that the U.N. Commission on Human Rights recently asked governments not to apply the death penalty to "anyone suffering from any form of mental disorder."
Times staff writer William Orme at the United Nations and Associated Press contributed to this report.