WASHINGTON (August 13, 1999)-- -Acting on behalf of Pope John Paul II, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States has written to Governor George W. Bush of Texas, appealing for clemency for a convicted murderer, Larry Robison, who is scheduled to be executed on August 17.
"The Holy Father, while praying and expressing deep sympathy for the victim, his family and friends, as well as for the other victims Mr. Robison has admitted killing, prays nevertheless that the life of Mr. Robinson himself may be saved through your undoubted awareness of the humanitarian dimension of such a case," wrote Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo.
"Killing people to show that killing people is wrong is a striking contradiction, even more so when mental illness seems to be involved, as in this case," Archbishop Montalvo said.
Larry Robison has been convicted of murder and was accused of killing five people. He has been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. In the 16 years he has been on Death Row, he has never received any medication or mental health treatment, according to his family. Appeals on his behalf have been turned down by the Fifth Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
"His Holiness appeals to your constitutional power to spare the life of Mr. Robison by commuting his sentence through a gesture of pardon that would hopefully contribute to the promotion of nonviolence in today's society," Archbishop Montalvo said in the letter. "A life sentence without the possibility of parole provides substantial safeguards for society and represents an adequately grave punishment for the accused," he wrote.
The Church's involvement in the capital punishment issue has taken on renewed urgency in recent years, and particularly with the approach of the new Millennium. Pope John Paul II called for an end to the death penalty in the Apostolic Exhortation which he released in Mexico City in January. Later, he successfully appealed to Governor Mel Carnahan of Missouri to commute the death sentence of convicted murderer Darrell Mease. The U.S. Bishops' Administrative Board released a Good Friday statement April 2 calling on the nation's more than 60 million Catholics to oppose the death penalty. In the past four months Archbishop Montalvo has made clemency appeals for six persons on death row in Alabama, Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas.