Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush Facing New Death Penalty Decision Convicted Rapist-Killer Blames Drugs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bush Facing New Death Penalty Decision Convicted Rapist-Killer Blames Drugs

Article excerpt

HOUSTON -- Gov. George W. Bush, his campaign unaffected by arguments over the death penalty, faces decisions on allowing the execution of two more men tomorrow night, including one considered mentally retarded.

Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, holds a sizable lead over Al Gore despite the brighter light shone on the subject this year. Gore also supports the death penalty, but he is not identified as closely with the issue as Bush, the governor of the state with the most executions.

Of the 225 convicted killers executed there since capital punishment resumed in 1982, 138 have died on Bush's watch, 26 so far this year.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Gore supporter, and other death-penalty abolitionists now are focusing on the case of Oliver David Cruz, 33. Cruz is scheduled to die tomorrow for raping and killing a 24-year-old Air Force linguist as she was taking a walk in San Antonio. He cites alcohol and LSD abuse, not retardation, for the attack.

"I'm not using drugs as an excuse, but I wasn't in my right mind," Cruz said in an interview with The Associated Press last week.

Cruz's IQ has tested as low as 63, his attorney Jeff Pokorak said. Anything under 70 is considered at least mildly retarded, but prosecutors note Cruz has scored above 70 before.

Pokorak contends in his pending appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that a jury was not given enough information about his client's lifelong mental impairment. The lawyer believes there is a "1-in-5 chance" either the high court will rule in his favor or Bush will grant a temporary stay.

"I think he would gain tremendously. If he's a so-called compassionate person, this is the case for proving compassion," Pokorak said, playing off of Bush's "compassionate conservative" slogan.

Bush can grant a one-time stay of at least 30 days. Bush spokeswoman Linda Edwards said the governor does not publicly discuss such decisions until after other options have been exhausted. …

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