USA: Mentally ill man to be executed on human rights organisation's 'birthday'

The execution of Percy Levar Walton by electric chair, set for Wednesday 28 May in Virginia, coincides with the anniversary of Amnesty International's launch in 1961. The human rights organisation is appealing for clemency for Percy Walton who faces death on the day that Amnesty International also publishes its Annual Report on human rights violations globally.

Amnesty International's annual report will show - amongst other things - that the United States' human rights record is a cause of growing concern, especially in respect of its increased use of the death penalty, including against those with mental illness, severe learning difficulties and juvenile offenders.

Percy Walton, an African-Caribbean man, was convicted of the murder of an elderly white couple and a 33-year-old black man in Virginia in November 1996. At the time of the crime Percy Walton was 18 years and one month old. There is evidence that he had been suffering from schizophrenia from the age of 16.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'The USA's increasingly go-it-alone stance on the death penalty means that it has the dubious distinction of being almost the only country in the world prepared to countenance the execution of the mentally ill and very young offenders.

'Even as Amnesty International marks its 'birthday' on 28 May, the US is set to send a prisoner to the electric chair - we call on the state authorities to halt this wholly cruel and unnecessary killing.

'As our new global report will show, the intention to execute Percy Walton is, shockingly enough, just one part of a darkening human rights picture in the United States. Clemency for Walton would, at least, be a small shaft of light within the human rights gloom of the USA.'

Since his arrest Percy Walton has displayed signs of possible mental illness. He has described himself as 'Jesus Christ', as the 'Queen Bee', the 'King of Hearts' and 'Superman.' He has told his lawyer that when he closes his eyes he becomes invisible. Walton has apparently randomly opted to be executed by the electric chair and has said that he would immediately come back to life - to 'be with his honeys' - after execution.

A court-appointed psychologist at Walton's trial had recommended that he be placed in a secure psychiatric hospital for his own and others' safety, and the same psychologist later submitted an affidavit pointing out that Walton's symptoms were 'consistent with forms of schizophrenia.'

Last month Amnesty International published a report showing that the USA is bucking the international trend toward abolition of the death penalty. In 2002 it executed 71 prisoners, an increase on the death toll in 2001. In 2002 it executed three juvenile offenders (those under 18 at the time of their crime), the only country in the world known to have done so during that year.

Relevant information

Death penalty worldwide: USA bucks trend with rise, as global figures show drop in 2002, press release - 11 April 2003: /news_details.asp?NewsID=14462

More about Amnesty International's campaign against the death penalty... /p>

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