Tuesday, January 17, 2006

January 17, 2oo6

....Allen was scheduled to be executed on May 22, 1987....

Last Meal: Allen had a last meal of buffalo steak, a bucket of KFC white-meat-only chicken, sugar-free pecan pie, sugar-free black walnut ice cream, Indian pan-fried bread and whole milk. The ice cream was left out one hour to thaw, and Allen turned it into a milkshake by hand.

The skinny: Allen, who turned 76 on Monday and was legally blind, used a wheelchair and suffered from diabetes and chronic heart disease, was executed for ordering the murders of three people in 1980 while serving a life sentence for murder in California's Folsom Prison.

More skinny: In 1974, Allen and his son burglarized a market, owned by Ray and Fran Schletewitz, whom Allen had known for years. The girlfriend of Allen's son, a 17-year old , eventually told the Schletewitz family that Allen was responsible and that she helped cash the checks that were stolen. Allen then ordered a hit on the girl. The teen was strangled and thrown into the Friant-Kern Canal. Her body was never found.

In 1977, a jury convicted Allen of burglary, conspiracy and first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole. While at Folsom Prison, Allen solicited the help of Billy Ray Hamilton, who was soon to be paroled, to eliminate eight prosecution witnesses so they would not be around for a retrial if he won his appeal.

Upon release, Hamilton and his girlfriend, Connie Barbo, lingered in Fran's Market until they were the last customers. Hamilton pulled out a sawed-off shotgun, and Barbo drew a .32-caliber revolver. They herded all the employees toward the stockroom and ordered them to lie on the floor, including the son of the store owner. The son volunteered to give the couple all the money they wanted. He then led Hamilton into the stockroom. Once inside, Hamilton pointed the shotgun at the man's forehead and shot him from less than a foot away. Hamilton came out of the room and turned to another employee and said, "OK, big boy, where's the safe?" The man responded, "Honest, there's no safe." Hamilton shot him in the neck and chest at point-blank range. A female employee began crying. Hamilton shot her two or three times from about five feet away. The shots pierced her heart, lung and stomach. One employee had managed to escape to the bathroom. Hamilton pushed his way in, stood three feet away and fired, according to the documents. The man raised his arm just in time, and the shot entered his elbow, saving his life.

Jack Abbott, who lived next to the market, grabbed his gun and came outside when he heard the shots. He and Hamilton exchanged fire, and Hamilton fled after being shot in the foot. Police arrived and found Barbo hiding in the market. Hamilton was arrested a week later after trying to rob a Modesto liquor store and now is on Death Row. A hit list containing names and addresses of the eight trial witnesses was found on him when he was arrested. It's what linked him to Allen, who had always denied ordering the killings.

Allen was sentenced to the three consecutive death sentences and scheduled to be executed on May 22, 1987.

Legal machinations: Lawyers for Allen argued that his lengthy time on death row, age and ill health should have barred his execution; he recently had a heart attack, suffered from diabetes, was legally blind and used a wheelchair. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a series of courts rejected those pleas over the last several days.

On Sunday night, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals noted that Allen was already 50 years old and incarcerated at Folsom State Prison for another killing when he orchestrated the triple murder for which he was handed the death penalty in 1982. Evidence at that trial showed he had paid another inmate $25,000 to kill three potential witnesses against him. "His age and experience only sharpened his ability to coldly calculate the execution of the crime," wrote Wardlaw, an appointee of President Clinton. "Nothing about his current ailments reduces his culpability."

Leading up to: At 6 p.m., Allen was moved to the death-watch cell and met with a Native American spiritual advisor. Crittendon said Allen would be allowed to carry several Native American religious artifacts with him at the time of his death, including a headband and a neck piece known as a "stairway to heaven."

Allen, whose mother is part Choctaw and father is part Cherokee, "professed to be a Native American since about 1988," Crittendon said.

Last words and such: Allen was wheeled into the death chamber at 12:04 a.m. Other inmates were locked in their cells all day, a prison policy for executions.

Allen placed a large white feather with dark tips on his chest and wore an elaborate yellow, green and red beaded headband. With the aid of prison guards, Allen was able to walk on his own to the table, although his shuffle seemed strained.

Allen spoke of how much he enjoyed his last meal, and he gave thanks to his friends, family, supporters and "all of the inmates on death row that I'm leaving behind that they will be joining me one day."My last words will be 'Hoka Hey, it's a good day to die.' Thank you very much, I love you all. Good-bye."

The execution took longer than usual, about 18 minutes, and required a second dose of the heart-stopping chemical potassium chloride, the last of the three-chemical sequence.

Factoids: Allen was the....

1st murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1005th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in California in 2006
13th murderer executed in California since 1976

Allen was by far the oldest of the 13 convicts executed in the state since California restored the death penalty in 1977 and the second oldest in the nation. That status, however, may not endure. California has the nation's largest death row -- 646 inmates -- but executes a relatively small number. As a result, the ranks of the condemned grow steadily more elderly, and now include five older than 70, 34 in their 60s and 155 between 50 and 59.

Since California reinstated the death penalty, the inmates who have been executed have had an average stay on death row of nearly 16 years, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The cases take a long time for several reasons, but chief among them is that the state takes considerable care in reviewing death sentences. The state Supreme Court automatically reviews each capital case. Although the court upholds the overwhelming majority, it does not begin the process until an appellate lawyer has been found to represent the inmate. Finding lawyers able and willing to handle the cases has proved difficult, Chief Justice Ronald M. George has said.

Currently, more than 100 inmates have no lawyer for their appeal, and the waiting list to get an appellate lawyer is several years long.

Allen's case did not draw as much media attention as that of Tookie Williams, who was executed in December after a massive campaign urging the governor to grant clemency. Nonetheless, Death Penalty Focus, a San Francisco-based group that opposes capital punishment, held a 25-mile "Walk for Abolition" on Monday, starting at the Palace of the Legion of Honor, proceeding across the Golden Bridge and culminating at San Quentin.

Shortly before the scheduled execution, the number of protesters outside the prison grew to about 300. The crowd banged drums and sang plaintive American Indian songs outside the prison gates.
About 2,000 people outside San Quentin's walls protested last month's execution of Stanley Tookie Williams, the co-founder of the Crips gang who was convicted of four 1979 murders.

Death penalty backer Rudy Thered of Sacramento was encircled by opponents but stood his ground while holding up a sign that had pictures of Allen's murder victims. Thered called Allen "unbelievably guilty," then said, "I'm here to represent the victims because people seem to forget."