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Thursday, January 28, 1999 Published at 19:11 GMT

World: Americas

Pope plea saves man from execution

The Pope's clemency plea in St Louis met a rapid response

The Governor of Missouri has spared the life of a convicted murderer on death row in response to a personal plea for mercy from the Pope.

Darrell Mease, who killed three people in a drug dispute 10 years ago, will instead face life in prison without parole.

"The Pope asked me to, in his words, 'have mercy on Mr Darrell Mease,'" said Governor Carnahan, the day after the Pontiff ended a brief visit to the United States.

[ image: Mease - life in jail]
Mease - life in jail
"I continue to support capital punishment, but after careful consideration of (the Pope's) direct and personal appeal and because of a deep and abiding respect for the Pontiff and all that he represents, I decided last night to grant his request," the governor's statement said.

"Cruel and unnecessary"

At a huge mass for 100,000 people in the city of St Louis on Wednesday, the Pope issued a strong call for an end to the death penalty, saying the practice was "cruel and unnecessary" and criminals should have a chance to reform.

On arriving back at the Vatican, the Pope expressed "great satisfaction" over the governor's decision.

It followed a meeting between the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Mr Carnahan when the Pope's plea was presented.

Malcolm Brabant: Lawyers say that Americans don't care about foreign criticism
Speaking at a mass attended by a congregation of some 100,000 people, 1,000 priests and more than 200 bishops, his attack on capital punishment was particularly directed at the US which, according to anti-death sentence advocates, executes more criminals than almost any other country in the world.

There are 4,000 people on death row in America's prisons, 92 of them in Missouri.

Change of mind

Earlier, a spokesman for the governor of Missouri said he respected the Pope's views but it would not make any difference because execution by lethal injection was the law in Missouri.

Clive Stafford-Smith, a Louisiana-based lawyer, who campaigns against the death penalty, welcomed the Pope's remarks but said that realistically there wouldn't be any change because Americans didn't care about foreign criticism.

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