Clemency battle leaves lawyers tired and broke

`We were literally begging for this man's life. It was a deeply disturbing experience' - Ingram's lawyer
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The Independent Online

"The clemency hearing was the most profound event I have ever participated in. I had never experienced anything like it - we're simply not used to it in Europe. There we were, literally begging for this man's life. It was a deeply disturbing experience."

David Marshall, an English barrister, was clearly out of place in the Deep South - and upset. He had just heard that Nick Ingram's plea - a plea that he had made in conjunction with Clive Stafford Smith, Ingram's American lawyer - had been rejected.

There was little time for reflection; there would be time for grief later. First, four separate appeals were being filed by the team of young attorneys, law students and the ubiquitous Mr Stafford Smith.

But Mr Marshall, who, with Philip Sapsford QC had flown over on behalf of the Bar Council's human rights committee, had a few moments of peace before the evening's events. He had had only five hours' sleep in the previous four days.

"The chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles handled the hearing with grace and charm," he said. "But when he decided to take the unprecedented step of visiting Nick in prison, quite frankly, he raised Nick's hopes; he raised our hopes and those of his family. Then he voted in favour of executing him.

"I am not saying it was intentional, but with hindsight, that was very cruel. Nick's hopes were raised only to be dashed again. He is a very, very frightened young man."

Mr Marshall said he believed the death penalty should never have been imposed for the offence. "Anthony Arlidge QC, one of the best legal minds in Britain, prepared a brief for the US Supreme Court in which he argued that the conviction was not safe," he said.

"Ingram was under the influence of drink and drugs during the crime - he has no idea what happened during those hours. At worst in England, he would be guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. But they don't have that here."

He said he found it astonishing that a bloodstained flip-flop found in the car of an accomplice who testified against Ingram - but who said he was not at the scene himself - was never subjected to a DNA test.

More than anything else, Mr Marshall sounded depressed.

"The atmosphere is terrible," he said. "Clive [Stafford Smith] is simply distressed. He has put so much into this. He has been selfless. He has been working for no fees on Ingram's behalf since 1985. He has a dollar- and-a-half left in his pocket."

English-born Mr Stafford Smith has a practice in Louisiana which uses fees from some cases and charitable donations to fund death-sentence cases like Ingram's. Once the legal action moved to the Atlanta area, he joined colleagues at the Georgia Appellant Resource Center, which became the team's headquarters.

In Georgia, a prisoner has no right to an attorney after conviction. The center, funded in part by the state and from public donations, provides the only legal representation for prisoners on death row.

At least two attorneys, Jeff Ertel and Beth Wells, and a small team of law students worked on Ingram's case. Mr Marshall said he had been sickened by the comments of an English judge who likened the team to wealthy do- gooders. Last night, they were simply tired and broke.