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Posted 07 Dec 2001   For week ended November 30, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 28Nov01

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 violations there.

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

See also:
A Chance for Justice; A Certainty of Pain

Mormon News' Coverage of the Robert Elmer Kleason


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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information