Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Supreme Court Rejects Last-Minute Petition by Condemned Inmate
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Clarence Ray Allen’s legal options appeared to run out late yesterday as the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his final attack on the death sentence imposed by a Superior Court judge in Glenn County.
The high court declined to review Sunday’s ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that neither Allen’s age and infirmity—he turned 76 yesterday and has been blind and nearly deaf since a heart attack last fall—nor the fact that he has spent the last 23 years on Death Row requires that the sentence be vacated.
“Allen’s petition...displays a woeful lack of support for the proposition that the Eighth Amendment prohibits execution of the elderly and infirm,” the Ninth Circuit panel—Judges Kim M. Wardlaw, Susan Graber, and Richard Clifton—wrote Sunday.
The judges noted that Allen was found mentally competent last month, that he was undeniably competent at the time of trial, and that more than 120 other prisoners over the age of 60—including a 90-year-old man in Arizona—are awaiting execution throughout the United States.
The fact that few elderly persons are executed, the panel said, does not necessarily reflect that doing so violates “evolving standards of decency,” the judges said. More likely, the panel reasoned, it reflects the fact that most violent crimes are committed by people under 30 and that older prisoners may die before exhausting appeals.
The panel was the same one that rejected Allen’s ineffective-assistance claim last year. The judges then agreed that Allen’s trial lawyer had rendered substandard performance in failing to present a case in mitigation, but said there was no prejudice because there would not have been enough evidence to overcome the strong evidence in aggravation, given the viciousness of the killings, the fact that they were part of a conspiracy which included plans to murder four other people, and the defendant’s past criminal history.
Allen was scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. today for masterminding the 1980 murders of Bryan Schletewitz, Josephine Rocha and Douglas Scott White at Fran’s Market in Fresno.
At the time of the Fran’s Market murders, Allen already was serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for orchestrating the 1974 murder of Mary Sue Kitts. Schletewitz testified against Allen at the Kitts murder trial.
Prosecutors said that Allen, while at Folsom, conspired with fellow inmate Billy Ray Hamilton to murder witnesses who had testified against him, including Schletewitz. When Hamilton was paroled from Folsom Prison, according to testimony, he went to Fran’s Market where Schletewitz worked and murdered Schletewitz and fellow employees Rocha and White with a sawed-off shotgun and wounded two other people.
Hamilton was arrested five days later, and police said he had on his person a “hit list” with the names and addresses of witnesses who testified against Allen at the Kitts trial. Hamilton is also on Death Row.
“Allen deserves capital punishment because he was already serving a life sentence for murder when he masterminded the murders of three innocent young people and conspired to attack the heart of our criminal justice system,” state Deputy Attorney General Ward Campbell said yesterday.
Campbell has been involved in the case, which was moved to Glenn County because of extensive pretrial publicity in Fresno County, from the early days of the prosecution. The case was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office because an attorney who had represented Allen in a previous murder case had subsequently gone to work for the Fresno County district attorney.
In addition to the murders and attempted murders, Allen was convicted of conspiring to murder eight people who had testified against members of a robbery ring over which Allen, who had been in the security business, was said to have presided.
Special circumstances of prior murder, multiple murder, and witness killing were found true. In the penalty phase, prosecutors presented evidence of Allen’s involvement in 10 prior violent crimes and of six prior felony convictions.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company