Clemency Urged for Mentally Ill Man in North Carolina

At a press conference on November 1, the North Carolina Black Leadership Caucus called for the governor to commute the death sentence of Guy LeGrande.  Le Grande is scheduled to be executed on December 1.  He was allowed to represent himself at his 1996 murder trial, despite the fact that he claimed to be hearing messages from Oprah Winfrey and Dan Rather through television sets.  His defense lawyer, Jay Ferguson, said LeGrande falsely believes he has already been pardoned and will receive a large sum of money.  "The problem is you have a mentally ill person representing himself," Ferguson said. "When his standby counsel asked the court to review his mental competency, the judge asked the defendant if he wanted to do that and he said no. His response was to tear up the paperwork. So you've got a mentally ill defendant making the call on whether his competency should be examined."

The Black Caucus also pointed to issues of fairness and race in calling for a life sentence for LeGrande.  The co-defendant in the case, Tommy Munford, paid LeGrande to commit the murder of Munford's estranged wife.  Munford, who is white, received a life sentence.  LeGrande, who is black, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury.  "The awful reality may be that as a society we value White lives more than we do Black lives. We value all human life," said Rev. Dr. William Barber, State Conference President of the NAACP. "We want to stop the killing of our White brothers and sisters as well as our Black brothers and sisters."

(Herald Sun (NC) (Associated Press), Nov. 1, 2006; NC NAACP Press Release, Nov. 1, 2006).

See Mental Illness, Race, and Arbitrariness.