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The BBC's David Willis:
''Her case became a cause celebre for death penalty opponents''
 real 28k

Friday, 12 January, 2001, 19:21 GMT
Oklahoma executes black woman
body
Officers remove Wanda Jean Allen's body.
A black woman has been executed by lethal injection in Oklahoma, the first black woman to suffer the death penalty in the United States in almost half a century.

Wanda Jean Allen
Protesters say Wanda Jean Allen was mentally retarded
The US Supreme Court and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating rejected last-minute pleas for a 30-day stay of execution for 41-year-old Wanda Jean Allen.

Allen was pronounced dead at 2121 (0321 GMT Friday) after receiving a lethal dose of drugs at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.

Asked if she had any final words, Allen is reported to have said, ''Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.''

She had been convicted of killing a childhood friend and then murdering a female lover while on parole.

Protests outside prison

Protesters, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, had called for a reprieve for Allen, alleging she was mentally retarded.


Father, forgive them, they know not what they do

Wanda Jean Allen's last words
Death penalty opponents argued that Allen was mentally retarded, with an IQ of 69, and that she was poorly represented at her trial, giving grounds for her sentence to be repealed.

But a spokesman for Governor Keating said there was "no question she knew right from wrong, the ramifications of her actions".

"My challenge is that we might choose life over death," said Reverend Jesse Jackson before the Supreme Court refusal.

Mr Jackson, along with 27 other protestors, was arrested on Wednesday for trespassing after they crossed a police line outside the prison where Allen was being held.

Record

Allen had been sentenced to death for the murder of her lover, Gloria Leathers in 1988, while on probation for an earlier manslaughter conviction.

Gov Frank Keating
Keating: "She knew right from wrong"
The last black woman put to death in the United States was Betty Butler, convicted of murder and executed in Ohio in 1954.

The last execution of a woman in Oklahoma took place in 1903 when Dora Wright was hanged for murder.

Allen was one of seven Oklahoma death-row inmates scheduled for execution this month.

This will break Oklahoma's previous one-month record of four executions in May 1933.

The state put 11 prisoners to death in 2000, second only in number to Texas which set a US record of 40 executions last year.

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See also:

04 Jan 01 | Americas
Stay halts Oklahoma execution record
12 Jun 00 | Americas
Most US death sentences 'flawed'
18 Dec 00 | Americas
Death penalty petition targets US
10 Aug 00 | Americas
Texas double execution goes ahead
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