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Mentally-Retarded Lesbian
Facing Execution Today

Lambda Urges Stay for Woman with an IQ of Eighty

European Union Makes Appeal to Oklahoma Governor

Compiled by GayToday

New York, New York--Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund called on Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating yesterday to stay the execution of Wanda Jean Allen, an African-American lesbian and one of several gay inmates on death row despite improprieties during their trials, including anti-gay bias.
wjallengovkeating.jpg - 8.19 K Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating holds the life of Wanda Jean Allen, an African-American lesbian scheduled to be executed, in his hands

"We can't call our society civilized if we put people to death after unfair trials. In Wanda Jean's case, and in the cases of Calvin Burdine and Gregory Dickens, anti-gay bias and many other departures from due process scream out that justice has not been done," said Lambda Legal Director Ruth E. Harlow, referring to two other death penalty cases involving gay litigants.

Unless Governor Keating postpones Allen's execution, she will become the first woman to be put to death by the state of Oklahoma in nearly 98 years. Her execution date is set for today.

During Allen's trial for the 1989 murder of her partner, the prosecutor invoked stereotypes of lesbians. Her lawyer, who had never tried a capital case before, was paid only $800, and had neither co-counsel nor resources for investigators and expert witnesses.

Years after the trial, it was learned that Allen's IQ is only 80, and that she suffered severe mental illness and retardation due to several head traumas.

Harlow noted that the troubling aspects of Allen's case mirror those of other people on death row, many of whom are people of color, are mentally disabled, or lacked the means to mount an adequate legal defense.

Harlow also said that the prosecutor's use of homophobia during the trial reflected the bias that many gay litigants, criminal or civil, still face in court. Two other death penalty cases on Lambda's docket involve similar misconduct.

In one of those cases, Dickens v. Arizona, Lambda is supporting an appeal by a gay man on death row trying to obtain a new, unbiased trial. It has recently come to light that the judge who presided over Gregory Scott Dickens' trial and personally sentenced him to death was at the same time writing vitriolic hate letters to his own gay son, saying among other things, "I hope you die in prison like all the rest of your faggot friends."

Lambda also has filed an amicus brief on behalf of Calvin Burdine, a gay man whose lawyer slept through much of his murder trial. The prosecutor in his case urged the jury to sentence him to death, portraying Burdine as a danger to the community based on a 1971 conviction for consensual sodomy, and suggesting that, for a gay man, being incarcerated with other men would be enjoyable.

European Union President Makes an Appeal

In a letter to Oklahoma's Governor, Frank Keating, and to the members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board, Sweden as current President of the European Union together with Belgium as the subsequent EU President, and the European Commission issued the following appeal:

"The European Union conveys deep concern with the high number of persons (8) scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma in the period until February 1st.

"The European Union opposes the death penalty in all cases, and thus seeks its universal abolition, promoting a global moratorium as a first step. The EU encourages the State of Oklahoma to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty.

Related Stories from the GayToday Archive:

Governor Urged to Cancel Execution of Wanda Jean Allen

Why Should LGBT Citizens Care About the Death Penalty?

Capital Punishment Rejected by Eleven Major Groups

Related Sites:
Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund

European Union

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“Among the eight persons scheduled for execution in Oklahoma in the next month two are, as evidenced by experts, considered to be mentally deficient: Ms. Wanda Jean Allen, scheduled to be executed on January 11 and Mr. Dion Smallwood, scheduled to be executed on January 18.

We would like to express our grave concern with the imposition of the death penalty on these two persons. The European Union is of the opinion that the execution of them would be in contradiction to the minimum standards set forth in several international human rights instruments.

Among them are the United Nations Economic and Social Council1984/50 resolution on the safeguards for the protection of persons facing the death penalty and resolution 2000/65 adopted at the last session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which specifically urges all states that still maintain the death penalty 'not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder or to execute any such person.'

“We therefore respectfully urge you, Governor, to take these factors into account and to exercise all powers vested in your office to commute the sentences of Ms. Allen and Mr. Smallwood in accordance with international law.”

The EU appeal was signed by Jan Eliasson, Ambassador of Sweden; Alex Reyn Ambassador of Belgium, and G. F. Burghard Head of the Delegation of the European Commission.

Said Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart:

"Lambda deals daily with the legal system's fallibility and the effects of bias on court decisions. With this experience, we oppose the death penalty as a harsh and irreversible use of government power."

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