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 British lawyers lose fight to halt ‘obscene’ US execution of Jack Alderman

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PostSubject: British lawyers lose fight to halt ‘obscene’ US execution of Jack Alderman   British lawyers lose fight to halt ‘obscene’ US execution of Jack Alderman EmptySat Sep 27, 2008 7:24 pm

‘Innocent’ man had been on death row since 1975
Frances Gibb, Legal Editor

Read letter by Jack Alderman to his lawyer about life on death row

Jack Alderman, the longest serving prisoner on death row in the United States, was executed at midnight yesterday by lethal injection.

British lawyers had made an eleventh-hour attempt to save him. The Law Society, the Bar Council and the charity Reprieve called on David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, to use diplomatic channels to stay the execution of Alderman and end what they called the “gross injustice of 34 years”. They also sent letters to the governor and attorney-general of Georgia and its Board of Pardons and Paroles.

A hearing before the Board of Pardons was held yesterday morning but clemency was denied, as was a last appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Alderman, 57, who was represented free of charge by the London law firm Clifford Chance, had been on death row in Georgia since 1975 and had always maintained his innocence. He was convicted for his part in the killing of his wife, Barbara Jean Alderman.

Tim Dutton, QC, chairman of the Bar Council, said: “I am concerned that the execution of Mr Alderman may be a grave miscarriage of justice. In any event, the execution of this man in these circumstances raises serious questions about his human rights.”

Paul Marsh, president of the Law Society, said that execution would amount to cruel and unusual punishment. “We urge the American Government to use their discretionary power to quash the warrant for execution and order commutation of his death sentence,” he added.“On behalf of the legal profession, I want to ensure the proper observance of the independence of that profession, the rule of law and human rights in all jurisdictions throughout the world.”

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s director, said: “I first met Jack in 1981 and 27 years later the state of Georgia still wants to execute him, even though he is completely innocent. He is an old man now. This whole situation is just obscene.”

Alderman’s co-defendant, John Brown, a drug addict and alcoholic, confessed to the murder, but then changed his story to implicate Alderman. Brown claimed that he and Alderman killed Mrs Alderman together, and that Alderman promised to pay him for his role in the killing. There was no forensic evidence and Alderman was convicted only as a result of statements provided by Brown.

The district attorney who prosecuted Alderman said that he had structured the entire case around Brown’s testimony. It was also later disclosed that Brown made a deal with prosecutors to implicate Alderman. Two of the jurors have said that they would not have voted to execute Alderman if they had known about the deal with Brown. Five jurors have since urged that Alderman be spared.

Alderman and Brown were sentenced to death, but Brown later pleaded guilty in return for a prison sentence and was freed after serving only 12 years.

The British legal bodies are also pressing for clemency in the case of Troy Davis, an American, who is due to be executed on September 23, also in Georgia, after 15 years on death row. He was convicted in 1991 of the murder of a police officer, Mark Allen MacPhail, solely on the basis of witness testimony, with no forensic or physical supporting evidence.

Most of the prosecution witnesses have subsequently recanted or contradicted their original testimony.

The Law Society said that it was deeply troubled about the reliability of the witness evidence. It added: “The society holds no position on the retention or abolition of the death penalty in the domestic law of any country, but is concerned to see that it is used in strict accordance with international law.”
Related Links

* UK lawyers attempt to stop American execution

A brush with the cruelty of death row

* Don’t let them kill him
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