Schwarzenegger Accused of 'Affront to Human Dignity' as He Rejects
California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has denied clemency to the oldest
prisoner on California's Death Row, saying a murderer's life should not be spared
because he is old and ill. Although Clarence Ray Allen still has an appeal pending
before the Supreme Court, the decision increases the likelihood that he will
be executed by lethal injection on Tuesday, a day after he turns 76.
With Allen legally blind, hard of hearing, confined to a wheelchair by the
debilitating effects of diabetes, and barely able to speak above a whisper,
his judicial killing is being denounced as an affront to human dignity.
His case, the latest in a long line to raise disturbing questions about
the way capital punishment is administered in the United States, is filled with
ghoulish ironies. He almost died of a heart attack four months ago but doctors
at San Quentin prison resuscitated him - fulfilling their professional obligations,
just as the prison's executioners are now preparing to fulfil theirs at one
minute after midnight on Tuesday.
Special arrangements will have to be made to get Allen into the death chamber,
which does not permit wheelchair access because of a steep bump running across
the floor. (The chamber was designed for death by poison gas, and the lip helps
to make the room airtight.) His lawyers have requested for him to be allowed
to take his final steps with a walker, but the prison authorities have not made
clear whether they will assent, as protocol dictates that prisoners' hands must
be manacled and their feet shackled as they make their final journey from holding
cell to death chamber.
Two prison guards will be on hand - either to help Allen drag his feet over
the lip of the door or else to carry him bodily on to the stretcher where he
will be injected with drugs to knock him out, collapse his lungs and stop his
Even by the grim standards of other executions, his treatment strikes activists
as particularly shocking. "The death penalty is never right," Amnesty
International's UK campaigns director, Stephen Bowen, said, "but in the
case of a seriously ill, elderly man with possible brain damage it is an affront
to all standards of decency and justice."
Mr Schwarzenegger turned down Allen's petition for clemency on Friday, just
as he did a month ago in the case of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, one
of the founders of the Crips street gang who became an outspoken and widely
admired anti-gang activist in his final years on Death Row. That decision sparked
an international furore.
There is little doubt about Allen's guilt. He organised robberies under the
guise of a security company he ran in Central Valley in the 1970s, then arranged
the murder of four people who snitched to the authorities. The last three murders
were ordered after he was behind bars.
But he hardly poses any threat now. Among those who support clemency are Daniel
Vasquez, the former warden of San Quentin, who called him "a pathetic sight
- aged, downcast, dejected, isolated, oblivious to his surroundings, cuffed
to his wheelchair, and utterly defeated".