From Times Online
October 15, 2007
Frances Gibb, Legal Editor of The Times
Lawyers from Clifford Chance are attempting to stop Jack Alderman being put to death in
A team of leading UK lawyers has intervened to halt the execution by lethal injection this week of America's longest-serving prisoner on "death row" — pending a US Supreme Court decision on whether the method is "cruel or unnecessary."
Lawyers from Clifford Chance, the world's biggest law firm, along with a group of top barristers led by Richard Lissack, QC, are calling for the execution of Jack Alderman this week to be stopped — at least until the Supreme Court has ruled.
Mr Alderman, who has been on death row for 32 years, is due to be executed next Friday by lethal injection, although the US Supreme Court recently suspended the execution of another death row prisoner, pending an appeal that "lethal injection" breaches the US Constitution as "cruel or inhuman" punishment.
It is the first time that the Supreme Court has examined the issue since 2004 and the only time it has ruled directly on a method of execution since 1878 when it upheld the use of the firing squad.
Pending the Supreme Court decision, several US states — Alabama, Tevas, Arkansas, Florida and Oklahoma — have all stayed execution warrants on prisoners on "death row".
But the Attorney-General of Georgia, through the local District Attorney, has decided to seek a warrant for the execution of two death row prisoners, one of whom is Jack Alderman.
Robert Jan-Temminck, one of the team of barristers from Outer Temple Chambers who are acting on Mr Alderman's case with the Clifford Chance solicitors, free of charge, said that they were seeking to establish Mr Alderman's innocence on the basis of of certain evidence that had come to light at his trial.
"There is a potential miscarriage of justice in this case which will, in a week's time, result in the execution of Death Row's longest serving prisoner."
Richard Lissack, QC, said: "If this case were measured against any of the international legal criteria applied around the world outside the United States, the conclusion would be "Jack Alderman has done his time." He should be spared execution, he should be imprisoned no more. The time for him to be set free is long overdue."
Mr Alderman was convicted in June 1975 of the murder of his wife and sentenced to death in the Superior Court of Chatham County, Georgia. He has always protested his innocence.
For nearly 32 years he has lived on "death row" in prison awaiting execution. Lawyers argue that his extended incarceration on "death row", coupled with his proposed execution and manner of it, are all individuall unconstitutional and illegal.
Appeals have been made to the local trial court which have been rejected. There is currently an appeal pending to the Georgia Supreme Court and given time, an appeal may be made to the US Supreme Court.
The UK legal team from Clifford Chance and Outer Temple Chambers say that the length of detention is "cruel and unusual punishment" which has been condemned variously by the European Court of Human Rights and the Privy Council.
Second, the lapse of time involved has rendered any ultimate execution illegitimate and possibly an illegal act by the State, they say.
Third, the method of execution, "with its well-documented and scientifically-evidenced horrors which the prisoner endures en route to his death" are incompatible with human rights standards under international law.
Mr Temminck, one of the barristers, said that "ghastly truth" of this kind of execution was that the prisoner might be conscious at the moment of execution yet unable to make any movement to signal his distress, having been paralysed by the second of three injections, and left to experience suffocation and the burning of potassium chloride in his veins prior to suffering a massive heart attack.
The US Supreme Court is due to hear the appeal on the validity of execution by lethal injection next year.
Mr Lissack said: "The State of Georgia is about to execute a man in the face of a Supreme Court decision on the legality of the process they propose to use. After holding him for 35 years on death row, what's the rush?"
Jeremy Sandelson, the partner at Clifford Chance who has been closely involved with the case, said: "Jack is a phenomenal man who has always maintained his innocence. We believe that delaying the matter for a few more months will ensure that fairness and justice is seen to be done without undermining the record of the Goergian authorities for reducing crime in Georgia."