Atlanta Parole Board Denies Clemency
Mar. 12, 2002
%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:; AUDIO:%)
ATLANTA (AP) _ Despite pleas from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the state parole board refused to overturn the death sentence of a dual British-American citizen.
Tracy Lee Housel, 43, was convicted of the 1985 rape and murder of Jean D. Drew, 46. He confessed to robbing and raping Drew at a truck stop and then strangling her and bashing her head in.
Housel, who was born in Bermuda, a British overseas territory, was scheduled to be executed Tuesday evening.
Vera Baird, a member of the British Parliament, read excerpts during Monday's hearing from a letter written by Blair asking for Housel's sentence to be commuted to life in prison.
On Tuesday, a Blair spokesman reiterated his opposition to the death penalty.
Speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, the spokesman added: ``We have been in regular contact at consular level with the relevant authorities in the U.S. But there are limits to what we can do ultimately.''
Housel's mother and son also pleaded that he not receive the death penalty.
There has never been any question that Housel committed the crime, but his lawyers argue his initial trial was unfair.
Housel's current attorneys say his former court-appointed attorney, Walt Britt, was an inexperienced lawyer just out of law school who had never tried a murder case.
Under Britt's advice, Housel pleaded guilty and his defense at the sentencing trial lasted less than 30 minutes.
Britt attended Monday's hearing to plea for his former client's life.
``I just wasn't experienced,'' Britt said. ``It's something I've thought about for the last 16 years.''
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter called Housel a ``dangerous man who does not deserve to have his sentence commuted to life in prison.''