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Death row campaigners call on Blair

PUBLISHED: 05:37 01 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:13 24 February 2010

CAMAPIGNERS working to save a Suffolk-born man sentenced to death in the United States have called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to raise the case during his talks with President George Bush this weekend.

CAMAPIGNERS working to save a Suffolk-born man sentenced to death in the United States have called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to raise the case during his talks with President George Bush this weekend.

Jackie Elliott, 42, has spent the last 16 years on death row after being convicted of killing 19-year-old Joyce Munguia in 1987.

He is due to die by lethal injection on Tuesday if his current appeal hearing is unsuccessful.

The Campaign to Save Jackie Elliott group has also said that Judge Jon Wisser, who is presiding over the 11th hour hearing, sent a letter to local media saying Elliott was "deserving of the ultimate penalty".

The group claimed that the letter revealed Judge Wisser had prejudged the result of the hearing, which is set to determine if crucial DNA evidence can be tested in the case.

They said the judge wrote to the District Attorney's office, the local sheriff, the Texas Pardons and Paroles board and American media organisations - but not British journalists or the defence.

His letter, uncovered by the BBC, was said to state: "I am totally sure (Elliott) received a fair trial. Never have I come into contact with a defendant more deserving of the ultimate penalty."

He added: "The only tragedy is that this case has lingered so long."

Elliott's defence team moved to have Judge Wisser disqualified from hearing the new evidence which could save their client from the death penalty.

The new hearing is expected to take place later tonight or on Monday to decide if the judge can continue to preside over the case.

Elliott's lead attorney Clive Stafford Smith said: "Judges ... must be not only pure but above suspicion. It is very difficult to see how any reasonable person could believe that he would be fair in Jackie's DNA hearing when, without having heard the first shred of our newly discovered evidence of innocence, he would say that to the press," he said.

Kevin McNamara, MP for Hull North who is among a groups of MPs, church leaders, members of the House of Lords and other organisations supporting Elliott, said the hearing was the "best chance" to save his life.

Elliott's supporters have called on the Prime Minister to "seize the opportunity" to raise the case with President Bush during their talks on Iraq.

If it goes ahead Elliott, who lived in Felixstowe, will become the first Briton to be executed in the US since Tracey Housel, who was put to death in Georgia last March.

Elliott claimed he was convicted because of evidence from police informers who were covering their own guilt, His lawyers also said he had been denied funding for forensic tests that could prove Elliott's innocence.


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