Death row Briton loses final appeal

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The Independent US

A British citizen who has spent the last 16 years on death row in America could be executed within two weeks after the US Supreme Court refused to hear a final appeal yesterday.

Lawyers for Tracy Housel, 43, said his only chance now was the unlikely prospect of clemency being granted by the state of Georgia.

Housel claims British citizenship because he was born in Bermuda, a dependent territory of the UK, where his American parents were working and where he spent the first three years of his life.

He was convicted after a two-week crime spree which included the rape and murder of a man in Texas and the beating and fatal strangling of a woman in Georgia. His appeal to the Supreme Court was a final effort to have his conviction overturned and came after a series of appeals to lower courts.

Housel's lawyers claim he did not receive a fair trial. He was represented at his trial by a single, court-appointed lawyer just out of law school, who advised him to plead guilty even though there was the possibility of arguing a defence.

Lawyers say the jury never learnt that Housel was brain-damaged and severely abused as a child by his alcoholic father. They argue that at the time of his crimes he was suffering from psychosis due to a medical condition.

Earlier this month, Housel's mother, Lula Pellerin, came to Britain to plead with Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to call for him to be saved from execution. The Foreign Office has written to the governor of Georgia, Roy Barnes, and to its Pardons and Parole Board, calling for the death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment.