The 17 January, 2006, execution of Clarance Ray Allen is arguably one of America’s most controversial executions. Clarance Ray Allen first found himself in prison after he and four accomplices robbed Fran’s Market grocery store in California. After the successful robbery, one accomplice, 17-year-old Mary Sue, blurted out that Allen was responsible for the robbery to the son of the couple who owned the grocery store.
Infuriated by the revelation, Allen ordered Lee Furrow, another accomplice, to strangle Mary Sue and to dispose of her body, to which he complied. Allen was soon apprehended and sentenced to life imprisonment while the real killer, Furrow, was charged with second-degree murder. While behind bars, Allen struck up a friendship with Billy Ray Hamilton, a conman who was going to be paroled. Revenge driven, Allen asked Hamilton to murder the witnesses whom testified against him during his trial.
On 5 September, 1980, Hamilton travelled to Fran’s Market armed with a sawed-off shotgun. Once there he senselessly murdered 27-year-old Byron Schletewitz, 17-year-old Josephine Rocha, and 18-year-old Douglas White. Unbeknownst to Hamilton, a neighbour, Jack Abbott, heard the commotion and armed himself with a shotgun and made his way to the market. Hamilton and Abbott exchanged fire before Hamilton fled. He was soon apprehended and found with a “hit list” containing the names of the witnesses; he was charged and sentenced to life imprisonment. For his part in the murders, Allen was sentenced to die.
Over the next 23 years, Allen sat on death row with his health deteriorating substantially. He lost his hearing, was confined to a wheelchair, and was declared legally blind. He didn’t know sign language so was unable to communicate. On 2 September, 2005, Allen suffered a heart attack but managed to survive. His lawyers argued that executing Allen would constitute as cruel and unusual punishment and that somebody as incapacitated as Allen was no danger to anybody . The court did not agree and Allen was executed by lethal injection the day after his 76th birthday.