California went ahead with the execution of a wheel-chair-bound, 76-year-old man with failing eyesight and chronic heart disease, after the courts and the governor's office rejected arguments that putting someone so old and infirm to death constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
Clarence Ray Allen, the second oldest man to be executed in the United States since the reintroduction of capital punishment in 1976, had to be lifted out of his wheelchair and helped across the raised entrance of the death chamber by four burly prison guards.
His lawyers had requested that he be allowed to take his final few steps with the help of a walker, but the authorities at San Quentin prison would not agree to loosen his manacles to allow him to use it.
Allen relied on the strength in his arms to straighten himself out on the stretcher on which he was strapped down and given a lethal cocktail of chemicals to collapse his lungs and stop his heart.
Before the execution started he turned towards his supporters and mouthed "I love you" toward his former daughter-in law.
In his final statement, read out after he was pronounced dead early yesterday, he used a Native American term to declare: "It's a good day to die."
There has never been much doubt about Allen's guilt in the four murders for which he was sent to death row 23 years ago.
He used a security company he ran in California's Central Valley in the 1970s to commit a string of burglaries, then killed his son's girlfriend to prevent her from testifying against him in court. Even after he was put behind bars for those crimes, he had three more of his enemies killed.
His case attracted attention solely because of his age and rapidly deteriorating health. Last September he suffered a heart attack but was resuscitated by doctors at San Quentin's medical facility. His mobility, vision and hearing were all impaired by diabetes.
The California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, refused to grant him clemency, arguing that he should not be allowed to escape his death sentence simply because of his age and the slowness of the appeals process. The Supreme Court, which ruled just hours before his death, also rejected the claim of cruel and unusual punishment.Reuse content