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Gummer's personal plea for mercy

PUBLISHED: 12:05 24 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:12 24 February 2010

SUFFOLK Coastal Tory MP is in the United States today, pleading for clemency for a British man who is on death row and due to be executed in just a few weeks.

SUFFOLK Coastal Tory MP is in the United States today, pleading for clemency for a British man who is on death row and due to be executed in just a few weeks.

John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, flew to Texas yesterday to attend a hearing in the case of Felixstowe-born John "Jackie" Elliott, who was convicted of rape and murder 16 years ago.

The court hearing will rule on whether crucial evidence, which could prove key prosecution witnesses lied during the trial, can now be DNA tested using modern technology.

Elliott is due to be executed at 6pm on February 4.

Mr Gummer will also meet with the Texan Assistant Secretary of State and the Chair of the Pardons and Parole Board to make Elliott's case.

He takes with him letters from the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and the Bishop of London, the Rt Hon and Rt Rev Richard Chartres.

"I am taking the extraordinary step of flying to the US because recent investigations have uncovered critical problems with Jackie's conviction that cannot be ignored," the MP said.

"I am confident that, realising how concerned the British people are, the Texan authorities will commute the death penalty to allow time to prevent any wrongful and irrevocable action.

"I am taking this action in the knowledge that the people of Texas attach great importance to the integrity of their justice system."

In his letter, Archbishop Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor states: "I do not believe that the death penalty can ever be an appropriate way to treat our fellow human beings.

"A merciful heart is surely needed more than ever in our world today and I implore you to show compassion and forgiveness and to spare his life."

This plea is reiterated by the Bishop of London, who said: "There is a strong case for clemency regarding Jackie Elliott. He has now spent sixteen years on death row and in that time has become a model prisoner."

The appeals from Gummer and the leading churchmen join those of 134 MPs – over a fifth of the entire membership of the House of Commons - who have now signed Commons motions calling for clemency.

Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has also written to the Texan Governor expressing concerns about the case, as have the English Bar and Law Society.

Last Friday, Elliott's mother, Dorothy, and brother Robert delivered a personal plea to Tony Blair in Downing Street, asking him to intervene directly to prevent the execution.

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