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Attorney Says Roach’s Fight Not Over Yet

January 8, 1986

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A man who was 17 when he confessed to killing two people is scheduled for execution Friday, but his attorney says he is pursuing appeals in federal courts in an effort to spare James Terry Roach’s life.

″We don’t accept that the United States is about to resume executing high- school-age people, let alone high-school-age people who are mentally retarded,″ attorney David Bruck said Tuesday.

The South Carolina Supreme Court and Gov. Dick Riley denied requests Tuesday to stop the execution.

An appeal to U.S. District Court was pending, and Bruck said he would pursue the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Roach, 25, of Seneca, confessed to killing 17-year-old Tommy Taylor and 14- year-old Carlotta Hartness in 1977. Attorneys argued the courts should consider his youth when the crimes were committed and that Roach has a degenerative brain disease.

In an interview released Tuesday, he denied shooting Taylor and Miss Hartness. Roach said he pleaded guilty because defense attorneys told him he would receive a life sentence.

″I didn’t kill nobody,″ Roach said, contending that his co-defendant, Joseph Carl Shaw, was the triggerman. Shaw was electrocuted last January for his part in the crimes.

The last-minute pleas for Roach say his execution should be stayed at least until the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights meets in April and considers whether his death would violate an international agreement that prohibits the execution of people who were minors when they committed crimes.

Former President Jimmy Carter signed that agreement in 1978, but it was never ratified by Congress.

The requests also say doctors only recently determined that Roach suffers from Huntington’s disease, and the courts were not able to fully consider the effect the ailment might have had on his actions.

Roach’s attorneys said in an affidavit that he ″suffered a personality change in secondary school from being good-tempered and cooperative to being morose and rebellious. His friends rejected him. They seemed to sense that something had changed in him. And he himself complained that something was wrong with his ’nerves.‴

Attorneys have argued that Roach was dominated by Shaw, who admitted firing the shots that killed the teen-agers.

Taylor was shot while sitting in a car with Miss Hartness. She was then taken in the woods, raped and killed.

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