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STANLEY Tookie Williams was still a front-page headline, his supporters still in fighting form, when Clarence Ray Allen petitioned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for clemency.

Attorneys for Allen - who is set to die at San Quentin on Jan. 17 - filed their petition the day of the controversial execution of quadruple-murderer Williams, arguing that their client's advanced age (75) and infirmities made lethal injection a cruel and unusual punishment. They've also argued that making him walk to the execution chamber would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

There is hardly the countdown for Allen that took place in the form of staged protests and slick punditry on Williams' behalf. Allen's backers lean on emotional arguments that inflicting capital punishment on a diabetic heart-attack survivor in a wheelchair is excessive and unnecessary.

Then again, if the justice system moved a little faster, we wouldn't see his age brought up as a defense argument.

In 1974, Allen arranged the burglary of Fran's Market in Fresno. After having his son's 17-year-old girlfriend, Mary Sue Kitts, strangled to death for her knowledge of his role in the crime, Allen was convicted of first-degree murder and began serving a life sentence at Folsom State Prison.

``While in prison,'' states the California Department of Corrections report, ``Allen plotted to kill the people who had informed on him and gotten him prison time.'' This plot included fellow inmate Billy Ray Hamilton - who, according to the Attorney General's Office, was supplied a ``hit list'' by Allen.

In 1980, a paroled Hamilton went to Fran's Market and killed Bryon Schletewitz (who was on the hit list), 27, Douglas Scott White, 18, and Josephine Linda Rocha, 17, with a sawed-off shotgun. Allen was later convicted of three counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances and conspiracy to murder eight witnesses from his first trial, and began his stay on Death Row on Dec. 2, 1982.

``Evidence of Allen's guilt is overwhelming,'' Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote. ``He has shown himself more than capable of arranging murders from behind bars. If the death penalty is to serve any purpose at all, it is to prevent the very sort of murderous conduct for which Allen was convicted.''

Suppose it was assured that every such killer would receive life without the possibility of ever being paroled: Many Californians would support that. But civil libertarians would undoubtedly throw a fit at the extra isolationist measures we should also take with these inmates to keep the Clarence Ray Allens of the world from striking again, to keep those on the outside safe as killers stage a multitude of appeals and may want to get rid of witnesses.

If killers were truly jailed - allowed so little freedom that conspiracies could not be hatched and executed from within, that victims' families and witnesses would not be harassed or live in fear of retribution - support for the death penalty would drop. However, as things stand, you'll continue to see death penalty support fostered by frustration as killers slip through the system to strike again; you'll also see Californians' frustration at the death penalty itself mount as decades pass from sentencing to punishment.

Sympathetic cases - however such sympathy for a murderer may be misplaced - will arise from time to time that erode public support for capital punishment. Despite his age and infirmities, Allen is not one of those cases. This is the man whom Californians fear when they voice even tepid support for the death penalty - the man who lacks empathy, knows no remorse, and won't hesitate to kill again should it serve his purpose.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 6, 2006

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