ACLU Urges Musgrove To Grant Clemency

The American Civil Liberties Union has added its voice to those asking Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to stop next week's execution of Tracy Alan Hansen. The ACLU sent a letter to Musgrove Thursday asking that Hansen's sentence be commuted to life in prison.

"A life sentence with no possibility of parole is an appropriate alternative to the death penalty,'' said Gail Chadwick, the state chapter's executive director.

Chadwick said there is "good reason to believe'' that Hansen would have been given a sentence of life in prison if the case were heard today. Chadwick said three jurors have said they wouldn't have voted for the death sentence had they known Hansen was abused as a child.

"`Based on the jurors' post-trial affidavits, Tracy Hansen should have received a life sentence,'' she said.

Hansen, 39, was convicted in the 1987 killing of State Trooper David Bruce Ladner, who was gunned down after pulling over Hansen's car for speeding on Interstate 10. The jury returned a death sentence. A female companion was sentenced to life in prison.

He is scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday at the state penitentiary at Parchman, barring any successful last minute appeals. It would be Mississippi's first execution since 1989 and the first by lethal injection.

Bishop William Houck, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, is to meet with Musgrove Friday to ask clemency for Hansen.

"I know that Bishop Houck will make a request of me to reconsider my position. I will listen to him, I will be open minded. However, I've been very straightforward about my support of the death penalty,'' Musgrove said.

Bishop Thomas J. Rodi on Thursday joined Houck in opposing the execution of Hansen.

"I have been in touch with Bishop Houck and know that he will be presenting the teachings of the Catholic Church to the governor,'' said Rodi, bishop of the 17-county Biloxi Diocese.

Those teachings were reinforced when Pope John Paul II visited the U.S. in 1999 and renewed his plea to end the "cruel and unnecessary'' death penalty. The church in modern times has opposed the death penalty because it believes a life sentence still punishes a criminal while protecting society.