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3 Oct 2014
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Death Row Briton

Robin Aitken
Jackie Elliott, the British born man who spent almost two decades on death row, has been executed in Texas by lethal injection.

Ahead of his death, he was being held in one of America's grimmest jails. The Allen B Polunsky Unit stands a few miles outside the east Texas town of Livingston.

It's a forbidding collection of low-rise blocks where all Texas's male murderers sentenced to death are currently held. Mr Elliott was one of more than 400 men on the jail's death row. He granted his last interview to Today after the programme had previously interviewed his mother and others who had taken up his fight to avoid the death penalty.

He told me that he had been surprised by the amount of interest his case has attracted in Britain: "It's given me something to hold onto like when you're drowning and someone throws you a rope. I've gotten more support in Britain than I've ever gotten here."

Perhaps that's not surprising; the crime for which Elliott was executed was the brutal rape and murder of an 18-year-old from Austin, Texas called Joyce Mungia.

But those who had fought to get Elliott a reprieve argued the original conviction was shaky because it relied upon the testimony of one of three other men who were present at the killing.

He said Elliott was the killer; Elliott's defence team, a group of lawyers and human rights activists opposed to capital punishment, said a DNA test not available at the time of the original trial could cast serious doubt on the veracity of his accusers' allegations.

They have managed to contact every member of the original trial jury who all lent their names to a petition presented to the Texas court of appeal asking that new DNA tests be carried out and admitted as new evidence. But in the end, the appeals for more time were rejected.

Elliott acquired British citizenship because he was born in Felixstowe in Suffolk in 1960. He only stayed until he was six months old when his parents returned to their native US. He told me he was always proud of being British: "It was something that made me different, I guess. I used to brag about it when I was a kid."

Elliott said that during his 18-year stay on death row he had largely been able to put the thought of his execution out of his mind. "I was able to hide. I felt I could deal with it like a tough guy." But as the day of his death drew closer that facade cracked: "When I went to court (at a recent appeal hearing) I realised how vulnerable I was. It hit me like a brick".

You can listen to Robin Aitken's interview with Jackie Elliott, by clicking on the link in the right hand column.
Jackie Elliott maintained that he was innocent.
Listen - Full Interview
WEB EXCLUSIVE: Following the execution, Jim speaks with Gerald Garrett, Chair of the Texan Parole Board and Jackie Elliott's lawyer, Hugh Southey.
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