January 17, 2006

Calif. executes oldest death row inmate

SAN QUENTIN, California (Reuters) - California executed
Clarence Ray Allen, its oldest condemned prisoner, by lethal
injection early on Tuesday at San Quentin State Prison after
last-ditch court appeals for a stay of execution failed.

Allen, who turned 76 on Monday 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 a.m. (3:38 a.m. EST/0838 GMT)

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected on Monday 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

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Friday 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 the Hollywood icon has rejected as

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

His execution at San Quentin prison north of San Francisco
followed the December 13 execution there of Stanley Tookie
Williams, the ex-leader of the Crips gang who had been
convicted of four murders in 1979.