Killer obsessed with actress to be executed today

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The Independent US

Prison officials in Georgia were being pressured yesterday to halt the execution, scheduled for today, of a man with chronic paranoid schizophrenia who converses with imaginary frogs in his cell and thinks the actress Sigourney Weaver is God.

Lawyers for Alexander Williams, 33, made one final appeal to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency because of his impaired mental state. If their effort fails, Williams, convicted in 1986 of rape, robbery and murder, will be killed by the state at 7pm today (midnight GMT).

Meanwhile, similar efforts on behalf of a man on Death Row in Ohio failed yesterday when the state executed him two hours after a final appeal from his lawyers was rejected by the courts. John Byrd, a convicted murderer, was executed even though another man had confessed to the killings.

Byrd, 38, maintained his innocence of the stabbing of a convenience shop worker in Cincinnati in 1983 and an accomplice in the crime, John Brewer, had come forward to confess to the murder. The courts did not accept Brewer's claim, because he was already serving a life sentence and could not be tried again.

Hopes among supporters for clemency in the Williams case also seemed to be fading. Ironically, the US Supreme Court is due today to take up another case that will compel it to take a new position on executing the mentally retarded.

The Supreme Court has already ruled against executing inmates who are insane. It has not ruled, however, on cases where there is mental illness. Nor has it said whether it is constitutional to put someone to death who is made mentally competent by medicines at the time of execution. Williams is force-fed schizophrenia drugs by prison guards.

Age is also an issue. Williams murdered his victim, a high school student, when he was 17. In the last three years, only the US, Iran and the Democratic Republic of Congo have executed people for crimes committed under the age of 18.