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Governor Denis Pope’s Clemency Appeal; Court Block Exeecution

September 19, 1987

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Pope John Paul II, in his second attempt to intervene for a Florida death row inmate, asked the governor to block the scheduled execution of James Armando Card, Catholic leaders said Friday.

Gov. Bob Martinez turned him down, but a federal court blocked the execution.

Card won an indefinite stay of execution Friday afternoon following a hearing before U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul, said William Nolas, Card’s attorney.

Card was convicted in the June 1981 slaying of Western Union office operator Janis Franklin. He robbed Ms. Franklin of more than $1,000 at the Panama City office, nearly cutting off the woman’s fingers in a struggle. He then drove her to an isolated area, ordered her out of the car and slit her throat with a knife, court records show.

On Wednesday, Paul granted a temporary stay less than a day before Card was to die in the electric chair at Florida State Prison. That stay would have expired Monday afternoon if Paul had not blocked the execution.

In 1983, the pope asked then-Gov. Bob Graham to spare the life of condemned killer Robert Sullivan. Graham refused and Sullivan was executed.

The pontiff’s request for clemency was relayed through Bishop J. Keith Symons of the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese, said Tom Horkan Jr., director of the Florida Catholic Conference.

Martinez, who is a Catholic, said he believed in the death penalty and saw no reason to spare Card.

″The governor has great regard for the pope and the church but can’t use his religious feelings where the law speaks clearly,″ said Jon Peck, a spokesman for the governor.

The pope’s request followed a dinner meeting with the bishops of Florida at the Miami home of Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy in which the death penalty, generally, and Card’s case, specifically, were discussed.

The matter was brought to the Vatican’s attention by Card’s lawyer, Jerome Nickerson.

The press release said Card worked with Department of Corrections officials to arrange for the administration of the sacraments of Holy Communion and confession to prisoners near to execution.

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