CALIFORNIA, USA. CALIFORNIA EXECUTES OLDEST CONDEMNED MAN
January 17, 2006: California executed Clarence Ray Allen, its oldest condemned prisoner, by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison after last-ditch court appeals for a stay of execution failed. Allen, who turned 76 on January 16 and was legally blind, used a wheelchair and suffered from diabetes and chronic heart disease, had been sentenced to death for ordering the murders of three people in 1980 while serving a life sentence for murder in California's Folsom Prison.
The time of death was 12:38 am (8:38 am GMT) on the morning of January 17.
Two guards assisted a frail Allen, wearing an Indian headband, from a wheelchair shortly after midnight into San Quentin's cramped death chamber and he was gently scooted onto the gurney where he would die.
Allen breathed heavily as a team of guards restrained his arms and legs to the table and set about methodically preparing him for a lethal combination of drugs. He turned his head to witnesses he had requested attend his execution and appeared to say "I love you."
Five minutes passed from the time the first of two needles were inserted in Allen until a guard read his death sentence order at 12:19 am. Within minutes the lethal drugs were administered and Allen breathed heavily for a moment and then was motionless until he was pronounced dead.
The US Supreme Court rejected on January 16 pleas to spare Allen's life. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer issued a dissenting statement, citing Allen's age, bad health and the fact he had been on death row for 23 years as reasons to stay the execution. Allen was the oldest person ever executed in California and the second-oldest man executed in the United States in recent decades. Last month, Mississippi executed a 77-year-old convicted murderer. Allen's lawyers had sought to block his execution, arguing to state and federal courts that carrying out his death sentence would be cruel and unusual because of his frail health.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on January 13 he would not grant clemency to Allen despite his failing health because he committed his crimes when he was 50 years old. Allen's clemency petition was the fourth Schwarzenegger has rejected as governor.
Allen's crimes reflected the "hardened and calculating decisions of a mature man," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement explaining his decision.
A Fresno, California, businessman, Allen had led a criminal gang in California's Central Valley after turning to crime in middle-age. (Sources: Reuters, 17/01/2006)