Naked City

Elliott: Compelling Evidence

John "Jackie" Elliott was executed Tuesday evening for the 1986 rape and murder of 19-year-old Joyce Munguia in East Austin. Elliott held dual British-American citizenship (he was born in England and his family moved to the U.S. when he was a child), and his case became a national cause across the UK, provoking a personal diplomatic appeal to Gov. Rick Perry by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. A vigil in support of Elliott was held at Westminster Abbey Tuesday night; the execution took place just after 6pm Austin time, midnight in London.

Elliott was defended by an international group of volunteer lawyers led by British-born Clive Stafford Smith, director of the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Centre and founder of Reprieve, an English human-rights group. Elliott had been convicted in part on the basis of testimony from witnesses who may have actually committed the brutal murder. His attorneys requested a stay in order to examine DNA evidence, witness statements, and other evidence not made available to the defense at the time of the original trial. The defense motion had been before the original trial judge, Travis Co. District Court Judge Jon Wisser, until it was reported that Wisser had written a letter to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles asking that Elliott's appeal for clemency be denied. His letter read, in part, "I have not participated in any case in which the conduct of the defendant was more egregious and have not had contact with any defendant more deserving of the ultimate penalty than Mr. Elliott. I am totally confident that Mr. Elliott received a fair trial. ... The only tragedy is that this case has lingered so long."

The defense asked that Wisser recuse himself from Elliott's case, and on Monday the motion for a stay was heard and denied by Visiting Judge Chuck Campbell. "The prosecution has been in violation of discovery for 16 years," said Stafford Smith, "and there is compelling evidence of Elliott's innocence. All we're asking for is a stay to allow examination of that evidence for a sufficient showing of innocence." On Tuesday, the Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 18-0 against recommending clemency. Without that recommendation, the governor still has the authority to grant one 30-day stay. Stafford Smith had written directly to Gov. Perry, saying, "It is absolutely critical that a stay be granted. I am not merely asking you to allow us 30 days as Mr. Elliott's lawyer, but begging you to do it in the name of Justice."

Tuesday afternoon, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected an appeal on Elliott's behalf, as did the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court.

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