Church and government in last minute appeal for Briton on Death Row

 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Rt Rev Richard Chartres, Anglican Bishop of London have added their voices to an appeal for clemency for a British man due to be executed in Texas next week. John 'Jackie' Elliott, 43, who was born in Felixtowe, Suffolk, is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection by the state of Texas on February 4. He was convicted of the murder of Joyce Munguia by a court in Austin, Texas in January 1987, but has always protested his innocence. His lawyer has been denied funding for forensic tests which might prove his case. His death warrant was signed even though the US Supreme Court has yet to rule on his appeal. A spokesman for Amnesty International said: "Jackie Elliott, was represented at trial by two lawyers who had never handled a capital case before. There are aspects of the case that give rise to concern about the reliability of the conviction and sentence. Key to the prosecution's case was the testimony of two accomplices Ricky Elizondo and Danny Hanson. Accomplice testimony is notoriously unreliable. The prosecution also presented expert testimony from a blood spatter expert whose methods and expertise are now widely discredited." More than 134 MPs signed an Early Day Motion put forward by Catholic MP Kevin McNamara, (Labour), asking for the British government to intervene. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has now written to Texas governor Rick Perry calling for clemency. Mr McNamara said: "The British Government's policy is to oppose the death penalty in all circumstances. At a time when Britain and the US stand together over Iraq, I hope that the state of which President Bush is the former Governor will find a way to work with us urgently to resolve this issue." On Friday, John Gummer, the Conservative MP for Felixtowe, (who is also Catholic), went to Texas to appeal for Elliott's life. Speaking from Austin, he told the BBC: "He is a British subject as much as an American citizen, and I think we have a duty to protect him. "He is one of those people who have really never had a proper voice, and we have to give him a voice. I am told if we can give the authorities an understanding of just how strongly people in Britain feel about this, it would help. That is why I have come." In March last year, another British man, Tracey Housel, was executed in Florida, in spite of an appeal by Tony Blair.

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