PM rejects plea to help death row man

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The Independent Online
John Major yesterday refused to meet the mother of Nick Ingram, the Briton on death row in the United States, almost certainly ending any hopes the condemned man might have had of a successful plea for clemency. It was the second time the Prime Minister had rejected Ann Ingram's appeals for help, but she vowed to continue the fight to save her son from execution in the electric chair on Thursday.

Speaking after a 45-minute meeting with senior officials at the British Embassy, a calm and composed Mrs Ingram said she was "hurt" by the Prime Minister's refusal to see her during his visit to Washington. But she added: "I haven't given up the fight by a long shot. The fight's still on; even if the Embassy says no, I'll still keep on fighting."

Cambridge-born Ingram, 31, will go to the electric chair unless his sentence is commuted to life by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, a committee of five laymen with experience in the criminal justice system. Of the 24 pleas for clemency the board has heard since the restoration of the death penalty in 1973, only six have been allowed, usually after the exceptional intervention of the sentencing judge or the victim's family. Defence lawyers believe the intervention of Mr Major may swing the board in Ingram's favour when it meets tomorrow.

Yesterday, however, the Prime Minister said he had not changed his view since replying to Mrs Ingram last week, saying there were no "proper grounds" for him to intervene. He added: "I set out the position when I replied to Mrs Ingram's letter. I gave it very long and careful thought before replying to it.

"I understand fully the very deep distress she must feel. She has written again and I have replied to her. I don't think there is anything further we are in a position to do."

Ingram, who holds dual nationality, was sentenced to death on his 20th birthday after being convicted of murdering JC Sawyer, 51, and wounding his wife, Mary. He had robbed them of $60, tied them to a tree and shot them both in the head.

Defence lawyers argue that Ingram had a condition that resulted in him blacking out during the crime, they question the identification evidence against him, and claim that there was an accomplice who was given immunity from prosecution in return for giving evidence against Ingram.

The prosecution is satisfied it has the right man. It is understood that Foreign Office officials were briefed on the evidence against Ingram before making a recommendation to the Prime Minister.