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Archive for Saturday, January 14, 2006

Death row inmate says he’s too old, sickly to die

January 14, 2006

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— California's oldest death row inmate - a 75-year-old who is legally blind and nearly deaf - is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to do something it has never done before: block an execution because of the condemned man's advanced age and infirmity.

Clarence Ray Allen's attorneys contend that executing a feeble old man amounts to cruel and unusual punishment banned by the U.S. Constitution.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday denied Allen clemency. Barring a last-minute reprieve by the courts, the governor's decision means Allen will become the second-oldest person put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.

He is set to die by injection Tuesday for ordering three slayings while behind bars for another murder.

Allen, who turns 76 on the eve of his execution, has been on death row for more than 23 years. He often uses a wheelchair and had to be resuscitated after suffering a heart attack last year at San Quentin Prison.

"The spectacle of Mr. Allen being wheeled into the death chamber, unable to walk and unable to see those who have come to witness his execution, violates all standards of decency and would amount to nothing more than the purposeless and needless imposition of pain and suffering prohibited by the Eighth Amendment," said Annette Carnegie, one of Allen's attorneys.

Schwarzenegger said Allen's age and health did not matter and noted that he committed his crimes at the age of 50. "His conduct did not result from youth or inexperience, but instead resulted from the hardened and calculating decisions of a mature man."

Allen's death sentence has been delayed by 23 years of appeals. He "should not escape the jury's punishment because our system works deliberately and carefully," Schwarzenegger said.

In his two years in office, Schwarzenegger has denied three petitions for clemency based on claims of innocence, mental incompetence, and good behavior or good deeds in prison. The last time a California governor granted clemency was in 1967, when Gov. Ronald Reagan spared a mentally ill killer.

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