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Published: Monday, 1/16/2006

High court rejects clemency for killer who says he's too sick to be executed


SAN FRANCISCO The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal today from a 76-year-old convicted killer who argued that he was too old and feeble to be executed.

The ruling cleared the way for Clarence Ray Allen legally blind, nearly deaf and in a wheelchair to be executed by injection early Tuesday for a triple murder he ordered from behind bars to silence witnesses to another killing.

Allen, whose birthday was today, stood to become the oldest person executed in California and the second-oldest put to death nationally since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.

Allen raised two claims never before endorsed by the high court: that executing a frail old man would violate the U.S. Constitution s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and that the 23 years he spent on death row were unconstitutionally cruel as well.

The high court rejected all three of his requests for a stay of execution, about 10 hours before he was to be put to death.

On one of those orders, Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissent, saying: Petitioner is 76 years old, blind, suffers from diabetes and is confined to a wheelchair, and has been on death row for 23 years. I believe that in the circumstances he raises a significant question as to whether his executuion would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. I would grant the application for stay.

The Supreme Court has never set an upper age limit for executions or created an exception for physical illness.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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