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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 16:01 GMT
UK intervenes in death row Briton case
Tracy Housel
Housel could be executed next month
The UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has intervened in the case of a British man who is awaiting execution in the US.

Tracy Housel, 42, has spent 16 years on death row in Georgia, after being found guilty of murdering a woman.

His mother Lula Pellerin had been told he was due to die next month and appealed to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair to act.

Mr Straw has written to the governor of Georgia asking him to commute the death sentence, Mr Blair confirmed in the Commons on Wednesday.

In the UK he would only have faced a manslaughter charge and not a murder charge

Vera Baird,
Labour MP

Housel's lawyers, and his mother, were not hopeful his final appeal to the US Supreme Court would be successful so decided to lobby the British government.

Mrs Pellerin, from North Carolina, said she was devastated, particularly since another of her sons killed himself last year.

She said she did not know how she would carry on should Housel be executed.

British citizenship

Mrs Pellerin called on the British Government to "step in there and say 'no death penalty'."

"They have to try to save his life," she said.

"If they don't, they will not be killing one, they will be killing two - him and me."

Mr Blair also told MPs at Prime Minister's Question Time the government would "continue to make representations" on Housel's behalf.

Housel is a British citizen as he was born in Bermuda when the island was under British control.

He was sentenced to death by electrocution in 1985 after being convicted of killing a woman he is alleged to have picked up from a truck stop.

Mrs Pellerin told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "The justice that our government is pushing upon him is not right.

High-level help

"Sixteen years in there on death row - he has lost his life already.

"If Tony Blair could say 'look, the young man was born a British subject until he dies and we are going to protect him' - that would be a help to us, knowing that he may have to spend that time in prison but he would not be dead."

She said her son sounded desperate in his last letter from the prison, especially as there have been five executions in Georgia since October.

Lula Pellerin
Housel's mother wants Tony Blair to intervene
The Foreign Office said the authorities in Georgia were aware the British Government was against the death penalty.

Labour MP for Redcar, Vera Baird QC, is also lobbying on his behalf.

She says the appeal ruling is expected on 25 February, after which Housel could be executed between 10 and 20 days.

'Diminished responsibility'

"At that stage is when only Tony Blair or Jack Straw could intervene and say Britain is worried about this man by international human rights standards," she told the Today programme.

Mrs Baird said President Vicente Fox of Mexico had set a precedent when he made appeals on behalf of a Mexican citizen.

She added there were issues surrounding the safety of Housel's conviction.

He was brain damaged at an early age and suffered hypoglycaemia and had not eaten on the day of the attack, she said.

"Totalling those together psychologists say they will either have possibly obliterated, but certainly substantially diminished, responsibility for the attack."

Lula Pellerin, Tracy Housel's mother
"Once you've lost one son you don't want to loose another one"
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