Wed, Jan 18, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Pleas for clemency fail to stop execution of California's oldest death row inmate

AFP , SAN FRANCISCO

A large sign about California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is displayed during an anti-death penalty rally in front of San Quentin Prison in San Quentin, California, on Monday before the scheduled execution of Clarence Allen.

PHOTO: AP

California's oldest death row inmate was executed early yesterday, minutes after the end of his 76th birthday.

A frail, blind Clarence Allen was put to death by lethal injection in San Quentin Prison across the bay from San Francisco, according to Lieutenant Thomas Mullen.

Allen's execution was carried out after failed efforts to convince celebrity California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the US Supreme Court that Allen was in such poor health that killing him would be cruel and unusual punishment.

The Supreme Court refused to intervene on Monday.

The panel of judges dismissed Allen's claims that the death penalty being imposed on an elderly, sick, frail and legally blind prisoner would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

The convicted murderer was also diabetic, partially deaf and used a wheelchair routinely since being revived after a near-fatal heart attack in September.

The Supreme Court also rejected Allen's argument that the 23 years he spent on death row was cruel and unusual.

Schwarzenegger denied Allen's request for clemency three days earlier, a month to the day after refusing to halt the execution of reportedly reformed gangster Stanley "Tookie" Williams.

Schwarzenegger weathered a political firestorm but stood his political ground over the Dec. 13 execution that caused an international stir after music and movie stars joined Nobel laureates in a passionate campaign to commute Williams' execution.

On Friday, he made a similar ruling in the Allen case, saying that the intervening decades had not reduced the gravity of his crime.

"Allen's crimes are the most dangerous sort because they attack the justice system itself. The passage of time does not excuse Allen from the jury's punishment," the governor wrote in a statement.

Death penalty opponents, minus the marquee star power, had rallied on Allen's behalf, but the looming execution did not resonate with the media and public in the same way Williams' death penalty did.

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