BY SIMON CALDWELL
A CATHOLIC politician may find out this weekend if his efforts to secure a stay of execution for a Britishborn man have been a success.
John Gummer, the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, has returned from Austin, Texas, in the United States, where he had been pleading with authorities to spare the life of Jackie Elliott, who has spent the last 16 years on death row.
Elliott, 43, who was born in Felixstowe, in Mr Gummer's constituency, was convicted of the rape and murder of Joyce Munguia, 18. He is to be killed by lethal injection on February 4.
But Mr Gummer is convinced that Elliott's conviction is unsafe and he pleaded in person with the legal adviser of Texan Governor Rick Perry, the Sheriff and the district attorney to halt the execution.
He has also written to each of the 19 members of the state's Pardons and Parole Board, the group likely to decide Elliott's fate.
"What I was trying to do is to bring to the Texan authorities' understanding the feeling we have in Britain about this case because this is a man who was convicted of murder on practically the sole evidence of the man who would otherwise have been prosecuted for the crime," said Mr Gummer.
"It's a typical problem of jurisprudence. You have pressure on the police to bring somebody to book. The pressure on the police is considerable and here is a chap who was the least well able to defend himself ... from both a Catholic point of view and a Member of Parliament point of view my job is to give a voice to the voiceless. That's what I'm here for."
Mr Gununer said Miss Munguia was battered to death with the chain belt of the man who testified against Elliott as part of a plea bargain.
As The Catholic Herald went to press. a decision was expected over whether to allow new DNA technology to be used on forensic evidence for the first time in the case, a move that would mean the cancellation of Elliott's execution date.
If this was refused. the Pardons and Parole Board would decide this weekend if it should authorise Elliott's execution as planned.
Elliott's case has also attracted the intervention of such English religious leaders as Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Anglican Bishop Richard Chartres of London.