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California executes oldest inmate on death row

[JURIST] California executed 76-year old Clarence Ray Allen [advocacy backgrounder, PDF] Tuesday morning, despite protests that executing the ailing inmate was cruel and unusual punishment. Allen, who was blind, nearly deaf and confined to a wheelchair, was California's oldest death row inmate and the second-oldest person executed in the US since the death penalty [JURIST news archive] was reinstated in 1976. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied clemency [press release; statement of decision, PDF] Friday, saying "Allen's crimes are the most dangerous sort because they attack the justice system itself." Allen was sentenced to death in 1982 for hiring a hit man to kill witnesses who testified against him in an earlier murder trial. The US Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the execution [order, PDF], though Justice Breyer dissented, saying that the circumstances raised "a significant question as to whether his execution would constitute 'cruel and unusual punishment.'" Last month, California sparked a death penalty debate [JURIST report] with the highly publicized execution of Crips gang co-founder and convicted murderer Stanley Tookie Williams [advocacy website]. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage. AP has more.

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