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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 21:54 GMT
Bush turns to Texas executions
John Penry
Penry's fate has become a matter of international concern
Republican Party presidential candidate George W Bush has had another issue to consider apart from the knife-edge presidential election - whether to prolong the life of Texas death row inmate, John Paul Penry.

It was the second of three executions scheduled to take place in the state this week, and the 38th this year, but the case has caused controversy because Penry's attorneys say he is mentally retarded.

Bush: Has power to grant reprieve
The 44-year-old has a mental age of six and professes to have no understanding of what his punishment is for. According to reports he still "believes in Santa Claus".

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has already denied Penry's request for a reprieve and a commutation to a lesser sentence and Mr Bush's only option now has been to grant a one-time, 30-day reprieve for further appeals.

Now the US Supreme Court has intervened, ordering that Penry's execution be delayed.

Snap decisions

The execution, which had been scheduled for Thursday night, has provoked international interest, with the British tabloid newspaper The Mirror devoting no less than seven pages to what it calls "The Texas Massacre".

Bush has spent as little as four minutes deciding who is executed and who lives

The Mirror
On these pages the paper prints 147 mugshots of men and women Mr Bush has sent to the death chamber in Texas since he became state governor five years ago.

The paper says the Texas governor usually takes less than quarter of an hour to consider final appeals and often opts for shorter briefings from his aides, sometimes taking just four minutes, to decide to go ahead with executions.

"Do we really want a man like him making snap decisions on whether to drop bombs or go to war. Do we really want his finger on the big trigger?" the paper asks.

The Mirror front page
View in the Mirrow: Thursday's front page
Beneath the pictures of those executed in the last five years, the paper listed their age, what they were convicted for, their date of execution and their last meal and final words.

Apparently as an assumed foregone conclusion, the Mirror's list includes John Penry as Number 150 whose 21 years on death row for the rape and murder of 22-year-old Pamela Carpenter in 1979 had been due to end in his execution on Thursday.

Deep concern

The London newspaper goes on to attack the whole of American society for this situation.

The execution of a mentally retarded person is a practice banned under international human rights standards

German MPs
"Disturbingly, (Mr Bush) has mass support from Americans, driven by their out-of-control gun culture and bloodlust for retribution."

But while The Mirror might be the most outspoken of the voices raised in defence of Penry's life, it is not the only one.

The parliamentary party of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has written to Mr Bush, expressing its "deepest concerns" about the punishment.

Scan of Thursday's Mirror
Potted historys of all 150 victims of the "Texas Massacre"
"We think that in the 21st century the death penalty is not a proper means of punishment, especially the execution of a mentally retarded person is a practice banned under international human rights standards," the MPs wrote.

Anti-death penalty organisation Amnesty International, also protested against the execution.

"If it goes ahead, his execution will fly in the face of long-held international standards of justice and decency," said Anne James of Amnesty International's Program to Abolish the Death Penalty.

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14 Nov 00 | Americas
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