Former California Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin and former San Quentin warden Daniel Vasquez are urging California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant clemency to Clarence Ray Allen. Allen, who will turn 76 just a day before his scheduled execution on January 17, is blind and disabled, conditions that his attorneys have argued would make his execution cruel and unusual punishment.

In a letter to Schwarzenegger, Grodin, who authored the court’s 1986 opinion upholding Allen’s conviction and death sentence, stated, “[T]he issue now - for you as governor and for me as private citizen - is whether the execution of Mr. Allen would serve any legitimate societal interest in either retribution or deterrence. My own judgment, considering the time that has elapsed, the physical suffering that Mr. Allen has endured and the state’s likely involvement in that suffering, is that it would not. On the contrary, to execute Mr. Allen now, under these conditions, for a crime which he committed more than a quarter century ago, would itself violate societal standards of decency.”

Vasquez, who was San Quentin’s warden from 1983 to 1993, wrote in his letter to the governor that Allen’s case is “an extraordinary one for which commutation of his death sentence is warranted.” Stating that Allen “presents absolutely no risk to institutional safety or to public safety,” Vasquez added, “[H]e is physically declined so dramatically since his reception on Death Row that he is physically incapacitated from promoting any violence. According to CDC [California Dept. of Corrections] records and my own observations, he is verifiably blind and disabled… . He is an old man who has fallen apart in almost every respect.”
(Inside Bay Area, December 29, 2005). See New Voices and Clemency.