Death Row vigil for Jackie Elliott

ANTI-death penalty protesters will hold an hour-long vigil while a former Felixstowe man is executed next month, it was revealed today.Lawyers are still fighting hard for clemency to save John "Jackie" Elliott, who is on death row in Texas but is set to face the lethal injection on February 4.

By Richard Cornwell

ANTI-death penalty protesters will hold an hour-long vigil while a former Felixstowe man is executed next month, it was revealed today.

Lawyers are still fighting hard for clemency to save John "Jackie" Elliott, who is on death row in Texas but is set to face the lethal injection on February 4.

Campaigners investigating his conviction believe it may be unsafe and say there have been "significant developments" which could clear his name.


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Elliott who was born and brought up in Felixstowe, is facing the death penalty

after being convicted of the rape and murder of 18-year-old Joyce Munguia in 1987, though he has consistently pleaded his innocence.

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She was raped and then beaten to death with a motorcycle chain under an Eastside overpass in East Austin.

Elliott, 42, a construction worker, claims he was convicted because of evidence from police informers who were covering their own guilt.

His lawyer also says he has been denied funding for forensic tests that could prove Elliott's innocence.

They have met with officials at the Foreign Office Elliott to seek help for Elliott, who lived in Gainsborough Road, Felixstowe, with his parents Robert – who was stationed at USAF Bentwaters air base – and Dorothy. His parents have returned to America.

A number of groups are monitoring the case, including Reprieve in the UK and the Citizens' United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (CUADP) in the USA.

A spokesman for CUADP said: "It is not difficult to get railroaded in the United States. We as a people, and the media in particular, have a responsibility to the public to expose wrongful convictions.

"We believe John Elliott's case is one which should be fully investigated, especially if there is the possibility of new evidence produced or confirmed by new forensic techniques."

He said the Texas Appeal Court had decided that Elliott would be executed on February 4 at 6pm Texas time. Supporters of CUADP were planning a vigil outside the Walls Unit prison in Huntsville, where the execution would take place, from 5.30pm to 6.30pm.

Currently, Elliot is in the Polunsky Unit at Livingston. He has a 60ft sq single-man cell with a window.

His survival now depends on an appeal to the US Supreme Court or, if that fails, an act of clemency.

But sources in America say even a personal appeal from Tony Blair for clemency could fall on deaf ears. Texan authorities recently executed Mexican Javier Suarez Medina, despite a personal intervention by the Mexican president Vincente Fox.

If it goes ahead, Elliot will become the first Briton to be executed in the US since Tracy Housel, who was put to death in Georgia last March.

n Did you know the Elliott family when they lived in Felixstowe? Ring our Felixstowe Newsdesk on 01394 284109.

WEBLINKS: www.deathrow.at/polunsky

www.cuadp.org

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JOHN "Jackie" Elliott is one of 450 prisoners waiting on death row in Texas.

Although some of the inmates have been waiting for their sentences to be carried out for more than 20 years, Texas is a state which keeps its word.

Some 38 of the 50 states of the USA have the death penalty as the ultimate sanction in their law, and Texas uses it more than any other – carrying out more than one third of the USA's executions in the past 20 years.

Until 1982, Elliott would have been facing the electric chair, but that device, known by inmates as Old Sparky, is today one of the attractions in the Huntsville Prison Museum.

Instead, death will come by lethal injection.

He will be strapped onto a gurney with needles for injection set up attached to both his arms.

He will be asked whether he has any final words, and then the executioner will start the machine.

Three different chemicals will flow into his body – a very high dose of sodium thiopental, which sends the condemned into a coma; pancuronium bromide, a muscle relaxant, which causes the collapse of the diaphragm and lungs; and potassium chloride to stop the heart beat.

The whole process takes about seven minutes, and the cost of the drugs is around £52.

A handful of journalists and up to five relatives of the prisoner are invited to witness the execution, along with relatives of inmate's victim, who watch from a separate glass-walled room.

At present, Elliott is in the Polunsky Unit at Livingston. He lives in isolation in a 60ft sq room. The execution will take place at the Walls Unit at Huntsville.

The City of Huntsville is part of Walker County in east Texas, 70 miles north of Houston, and 170 miles south of Dallas.

It has a population of about 36.000, a university, and more than 70 churches. Its most famous son was Sam Houston, the founder of the state Texas.

It also has seven prisons and every third or fourth citizen of Huntsville is a prison inmate, with up to 12,000 at any one time.

Weblinks: http://www.chron.com/content/chronicle/special/01/penalty/index.html

http://www.cl.uh.edu/uhclidian/fall00/5f0online/5f0texas.htm

http://www.revue.com/galleries/brezillon_huntsville/index.shtml

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