Albright plea to spare killer

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THE GOVERNOR of Texas, George Bush, has come under unprecedented pressure to halt the execution scheduled for this evening of a Canadian national, Joseph Stanley Faulder. Among those asking at least for a delay in the dispatch of the 61-year-old convict is the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

There is no dispute over the guilt of Faulder, convicted of killing an elderly oil widow, Inez Philips, in the Texas town of Palestine in 1975, by crushing her skull and then stabbing her with a kitchen knife. In two decades on Death Row, he has already had eight appointments with the executioner.

The dispute over his fate centres on the failure of Texas to grant the Canadian government proper consular access to the inmate, in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Indeed, Faulder had been on Death Row for 15 years before Canada was alerted to his predicament.

While similar arguments have erupted before about foreign nationals facing execution in the United States, it is rare for them to reach the level of foreign ministers. Lloyd Axworthy, the Canadian Foreign Minister, has appealed to Governor Bush to commute the sentence to life imprisonment.

In her own letter to the Governor, Ms Albright asked that a 30-day delay be granted to allow time for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to study the consular issue. She warned that unless the US complied with the Vienna Convention, it could not expect foreign governments to honour their obligation to grant access to Americans facing imprisonment abroad.

Opponents of the death penalty have, meanwhile, converged on Texas to demand the sparing of Faulder. At a press conference, the Canadian Association in the Defence of the Wrongly Convicted likened Texas, which expects to carry out four executions this week alone, to a "killing machine".