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Pope, bishops seek clemency for condemned inmate

Pope, bishops seek clemency for condemned inmate

Pope Benedict XVI and four Catholic bishops in Kentucky asked the state's governor on Thursday to commute the death sentence of an inmate set to be executed Sept. 16.
Gov. Steve Beshear responded hours later that he found no reason to set aside the sentence.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville presented Beshear with a letter Thursday morning written on the Pope's behalf by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal nuncio to the United States. It asks that 53-year-old Gregory L. Wilson not be executed because of questions about Wilson's mental status.
Beshear issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying he believes capital punishment is appropriate for some crimes and that he found no circumstances for setting aside the sentence after conducting an "exhaustive review" of Wilson's case. Beshear said he pledged to review clemency petitions for Wilson after final court appeals are complete.
On Thursday morning, Beshear had met with Kurtz and the Rev. Dr. Marian McClure Taylor, executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches. The meeting came one week before Wilson's scheduled lethal injection at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville. Kurtz also presented Beshear a letter signed by himself and three other Kentucky Catholic bishops calling for a stay of execution on behalf of the state's 400,000 Catholics.
Wilson was sentenced to death 22 years ago for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 36-year-old Deborah Pooley in northern Kentucky in 1987. A co-defendant in the case, Brenda Humphrey, is serving life in prison.
Diocese of Owensboro Bishop William Medley, who didn't attend the meeting, said in a statement that Wilson has converted to Catholicism while on death row. The bishop also paid a visit to Wilson last week and said the inmate spoke of his faith and understands he may die soon.
"I am saddened to think of Gregory's death at the hands of the state," said Medley, whose diocese includes the prison.
Papal intervention in an American execution case is unusual but not unheard of. Pope Benedict XVI sent similar letters earlier this year to the governors of Florida and Georgia, opposing putting inmates there to death.
Meanwhile, a judge in Frankfort is weighing whether to stop Wilson's execution. Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd heard arguments Wednesday that the state's lethal injection protocol wasn't adopted properly and fails to address several key issues.
Shepherd said he planned to rule by week's end.