By Kent Larsen
Kleason Tells Court He Fears US Death Penalty
LONDON, ENGLAND -- The man once convicted and now accused again of
the brutal murder of two LDS missionaries told a British court on
Monday that he is afraid he will be executed for the murders if sent
to the U.S. Robert Elmer Kleason testified at an extradition hearing
in an attempt to stay in England, where he would be paroled from
prison. And because British law prohibits the death penalty, the
country won't extradite accused criminals to countries where they
will be executed.
In an often-used compromise, Britain usually extradites accused
criminals to the U.S. when given assurances that the death penalty
will not be used. And Texas prosecutors have agreed not to seek the
death penalty in Kleason's case. But his lawyer, James Scobie,
suggested that Texas might "dishonor those assurances," and Kleason
told the extradition hearing Monday, "My life's at stake here."
While the court took testimony in the case, it did not reach a
decision, and adjourned the case until December 17th. Kleason is
being held without bail until then.
Kleason is accused of the murder of Elder Mark Fischer and his
missionary companion, Elder Gary Darley, who disappeared after they
were scheduled to meet with Kleasen on October 28, 1974. The
missionaries were supposed to have dinner with Kleasen despite the
suggestion from a local bishop that they stay away from him.
Investigators later discovered that Kleasen had a very violent past,
including a shooting incident in New York state and firearms
Kleason was convicted of Elder Fischer's murder in 1975 (he has never
been tried in the murder of Elder Darley), but after two years on
Texas' death row, an appeals court overturned Kleason's conviction,
ruling that the search of his home was illegal and that key evidence
had to be excluded. New York prosecutors were able to convict Kleasen
of weapons charges and he spent 10 years in federal prison. He
disappeared after his release, eventually appearing in England, where
he was again arrested and convicted on weapons charges.
His reappearance in Britain led Austin prosecutors to review the
case, and they soon determined that DNA technology allows them to
reopen the case. Kleason was then re-indicted and an extradition
request was sent to England in time to keep him from being released
from prison there.
UK prisoner fears execution
BBC News 26Nov01 P2
A Chance for Justice; A Certainty of Pain
Mormon News' Coverage of the Robert Elmer Kleason