TEXAS (USA): POWELL EXECUTED FOR 1978 SLAYING OF POLICE OFFICER
June 15, 2010: The state of Texas executed David Powell, 59, for the murder of a police officer 32 years ago, after having lost a series of lengthy appeals and requests for clemency.
Powell was convicted and sentenced to death for the May 18, 1978 machine-gun murder of police officer Ralph Ablanedo, who stopped him on a traffic offense.
With the execution, Powell set a record for the longest period on death row in the state before being put to death, circumstances which had earned him support for clemency.
He also elicited wide support for becoming what some called a model prisoner and for his expressions of remorse for his crime.
Powell was a drug addict in 1978 when his car was stopped for a traffic violation by Ablanedo, then 26. The officer was hit several times by shots from a Russian-made AK-47 but managed to radio for help and describe his assailant before he died.
Powell was convicted and sentenced to death later that year. The verdict was overturned on appeal, but he was convicted at a retrial in 1991 and re-sentenced to death. That trial was voided as well on appeal, resulting in a third trial that reaffirmed the penalty.
But supporters said that Powell's 32 years on death row have proved the power of human redemption.
Amnesty International is one of many advocate groups that pleaded his case, saying in a report that over time, Powell has become "a model prisoner and an extraordinary human being."
"The traditional justification for the death penalty (is) retribution and deterrence," Amnesty said. "It is hard to imagine what further deterrence would be achieved by an execution 32 years after" the crime.
Defense attorneys said that Powell at the time of the murder was high on drugs and that he kicked his habit once in prison.
An Amnesty International report also cites testimony gathered from prison guards, inmates and a psychotherapist -- all attesting to the genuineness of Powell's transformation.
Powell's supporters also said that in his time behind bars, he has counseled fellow inmates and helped others learn to read.
Another issue raised was the mere fact of his long tenure on death row, which opponents of capital punishment consider cruel and unusual and thus a violation of the US constitution. Even retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has spoken out against this type of long wait on death row.
Powell's tenure on death row was among the longest ahead of an execution in the United States. Alabama earlier this year executed Thomas Whisenhant after 32 years on death row while Georgia in 2008 put to death Jack Alderman after 33 years. (Sources: Afp, 15/06/2010)