Buddhist monk to be executed in California

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CALIFORNIA'S NEW governor, Gray Davis, signalled the beginning of what could be the most intense spate of judicial killings in the state's history this weekend by denying clemency to a former Buddhist monk said by his own jailers to be a model inmate who does not deserve to die.

Jaturun Siripongs, a Thai national, was convicted of robbing a shop and murdering two of its employees in 1981. Championed by civil rights activists, the families of his victims and the Thai government as well as employees of San Quentin prison, he could have been an ideal candidate for clemency if theDemocratic governor wanted to reverse the hardline pro-death penalty stance of his two Republican predecessors.

But Mr Davis, who took office barely a month ago, campaigned on a pro- capital punishment platform and now appears unwilling to risk losing the support of a core constituency by "going soft" on crime. On Saturday, he said he was turning down Mr Siripongs' last-minute appeal for clemency. "Model behaviour cannot bring back the lives of the two innocent murder victims," he said.

Siripongs is scheduled to die by lethal injection just after midnight tonight.