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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 01:12 GMT
Q&A: Tracy Housel's crimes
British national Tracy Housel has been on Death Row in the United States for 16 years. He will be executed on Tuesday.

Who is Tracy Housel?

Tracy Housel, 43, is a prisoner on Death Row in Georgia, in the US. His final appeal, made to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and asking for clemency, was turned down on Monday. No reasons were given, as is the custom. He is due to be executed by lethal injection at 1900 local time (midnight GMT) on Tuesday, 12 March. Although he has lived virtually all his life in America, he has joint US-UK citizenship because he was born in Bermuda when it was a British territory.

What did he do?

In 1985 Housel battered to death Jeanne Drew in the county of Gwinnett, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. On the evening of 6 April 1985, Ms Drew took a night off from nursing her sick mother, to go ballroom dancing. On her way home she stopped for a cup of coffee at a truckers' lay-by, where she met Housel. She was last seen alive, driving off in her silver Ford Mustang with Housel in the passenger seat. The next day her badly beaten body was found by the side of a road. She had been beaten with a stick and allegedly raped. Her body was so badly disfigured, she could only be identified through dental records.

What happened to Housel?

Seven days later, Housel was arrested in Daytona Beach, Florida, after trying to use one of Ms Drew's credit cards. He was brought back to Georgia and charged with Ms Drew's murder and rape. He pleaded guilty to murder and the rape charge was dropped. Housel was sentenced to death on 7 February 1986. Since then, he has been embroiled in a series of appeals.

Did he commit any other crimes?

This is a highly contentious matter for Housel's lawyers. Prior to trial, he confessed to murdering a truck driver in Texas. Prosecutors at his trial said the murder of Ms Drew had been the climax of a six-week cross-country spree of violence. In addition to Ms Drew's murder, prosecutors submitted evidence to the jury of three further alleged crimes committed by Housel - a practice permitted by Georgia state law. Gwinnett County police Colonel John Latty says Housel confessed to committing a total of 17 murders.

What were the grounds for Housel's appeal?

Housel's appeal for clemency hinged on the claim he was inadequately represented at his initial trial by his lawyer Walt Britt. Mr Britt agrees, now saying his mistakes are responsible for Housel now being on Death Row. At the trial Mr Britt failed to uncover that Housel suffered from hypoglycaemia - low blood sugar - a brain disorder that can cause psychosis. Medics acting for Housel have said he was psychotic when he killed Jeanne Drew. Housel's current lawyers also say he was brain damaged as a child - something again that was not raised at his trial.

What about his British nationality?

The UK Government, which opposes the death penalty, has intervened on Housel's behalf. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw phoned Georgia governor Roy Barnes to ask that Housel be spared. The British ambassador to Washington, Christopher Meyer, has also intervened, as has the European Union. And 127 MPs signed a motion protesting that Housel's trial was unfair. But Prime Minister Tony Blair turned down a request to make a mercy call to Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. Gwinnett County district attorney, Danny Porter, who prosecuted Housel, questioned his British credentials and said that he should be executed regardless of his nationality.

Does Housel have any other options?

There is still the slim chance of a stay of execution. On Monday a county court rejected a "petition for writ of habeas corpus" lodged by his legal team. The petition alleges Housel's human rights were infringed during his detention and trial. It includes a claim that Housel was tortured with electric shock guns while on remand and that, as a British citizen, he was not advised of his consular rights. On Tuesday, his lawyers will appeal this petition to the Georgia Supreme Court and, if necessary, to the United States Supreme Court.

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