2006: Clarence Ray Allen, “beyond rehabilitation”

(Thanks to Meaghan Good of the Charley Project for the guest post. -ed.)

On this day in 2006, Clarence Allen was executed by the state of California for his role in the murders of three people.

Clarence Ray Allen packing heat and bravado in the 1970s (top); and, as a geriatric condemned man (bottom).

He could be seen as a kind of poster child for the death penalty: Allen was already serving a life sentence in prison for murder when he had the witnesses against him killed. As the Ninth Court of Appeals noted,

Given the nature of his crimes, sentencing him to another life term would achieve none of the traditional purposes underlying punishment. Allen … has proven that he is beyond rehabilitation.

The California Attorney General’s office provides a detailed account of his crimes here. (pdf) Crime Magazine ran a detailed piece on Allen in 2009. For Executed Today, a summary will suffice:

Allen, a father of two, presented an outward appearance of respectability (in fact, he ran a thriving security business) while organizing a gang of young people to help him commit many burglaries. In June 1974, Allen, his son Roger and other accomplices burglarized a Fresno supermarket and stole, among other things, $10,000 in money orders. Roger’s seventeen-year-old girlfriend, Mary Sue Kitts, later told Bryon Schletewitz, whose parents owned the supermarket, who had committed the burglary.

Allen had warned his gang that “snitches” would be put to death, and when he found out what Kitts had done he ordered her murder. Another member of the gang, Eugene Farrow, actually committed the deed, strangling Kitts and dumping her body in a canal. Her body has never been found.

Allen was convicted of the burglary and Kitts’s murder in 1977 and sentenced to life. Farrow pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

After his conviction, Allen ordered the murders of eight of the witnesses who had testified against him at the trial, including Schletewitz and his parents. His other son, Kenneth (lovely family they are), supplied weapons and transportation to Billy Ray Hamilton, a recently paroled prisoner who had been offered $25,000 to commit the murders, and Hamilton’s girlfriend, Connie Sue Barbo. In 1980, Hamilton and Barbo broke into the supermarket and shot Schletewitz as well as Douglas Scott White and Jacqueline Rocha, two teenagers who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Fortunately, Barbo was caught at the scene and Hamilton was arrested just a few days later, before he could get on with the hit list.

In 1982, Allen was sentenced to death for the three murders. Hamilton was also sent to Death Row, where he remains. Barbo got a life term. Kenneth accepted a plea agreement that offered minimal prison time in exchange for his testimony, but when he recanted his original statements the agreement was canceled and he got a life sentence.

Already fifty years old at the time of the supermarket murders, Allen had to wait a further twenty-six years for his date with death. While he was on Death Row his health deterioriated markedly.

By the time he was executed he was diabetic, nearly deaf, legally blind and confined to a wheelchair. He also had a heart attack in 2005 and had to have bypass surgery.

Given the circumstances of his crimes, his advanced age and poor health were the only mitigating circumstances his attorneys could think of to argue for a reprieve. The Ninth Court of Appeals didn’t agree that this constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

Writing for the panel of judges, Judge Kim Wardlaw said,

His age and experience only sharpened his ability to coldly calculate the execution of the crime. Nothing about his current ailments reduces his culpability and thus they do not lessen the retributive or deterrent purposes of the death penalty.

For the same reasons, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to intervene to stop the execution, saying, “His conduct did not result from youth or inexperience, but instead resulted from the hardened and calculating decisions of a mature man.”

On the day of Allen’s execution, he had to be lifted from his chair onto the gurney. His last words were: “It’s a good day to die. Thank you very much. I love you all. Goodbye.” It took eighteen minutes and an extra dose of potassium chloride for him to die.

On this day..

7 thoughts on “2006: Clarence Ray Allen, “beyond rehabilitation”

  1. Executing a vicious criminal is not committing a “horrible homicide.” It certainly IS justice. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  2. The horrible and homicidal crimes of Clarence Ray Allen, Billy Ray Hamilton, and associates against the Schletewitz family and the larger community centered around Fran’s Market indeed the greatest punishment that can morally and constitutionally be inflicted: life without parole, under restrictive enough conditions to prevent further killings like those of Mary Sue Kitts as well as his actual and intended victims in Fresno.

    To kill Allen was to bring society down to his level. The fact that he had spent 25 years in custody after the Fran’s Market murders shows that society can protect itself without killing a subdued prisoner. But the case may be a very good illustration of why SuperMax confinement and other precautions are necessary for prisoners who might order more murders on the outside.

    One horrible homicide does not do justice for another — or even for several, as in this case. And giving Allen lifesaving medical care with the intention of killing him seems to me an ethic of human sacrifice rather than life-affirming justice.

    But I strongly agree that rejecting the death penalty for Allen means rejecting it for anyone. The comments here show that there can be certainly be differences of opinion, but from either a religious or practical standpoint I would see a sentence of life without parole, with appropriate security restrictions, as the way to affirm the value of Mary Sue Kitts and the members of the Schletewitz family while rejecting Allen’s homicidal example, even as applied to him.

  3. “Allen, who was blind and mostly deaf, suffered from diabetes and had a nearly fatal heart attack in September, only to be revived and returned to death row. He was assisted into the death chamber by four large correctional officers and lifted out of his wheelchair.”


    The Associated Press – ‘It’s a good day to die’; California executes its oldest death row inmate.” (January 17, 2006)

  4. “If you investigated this crime you would have learned that Clarence Allen committed his heinous crimes by putting fear into others and having them carry out his orders even while he served a Life Sentence at Folsom Prison. Allen was a danger to society as long as he could breathe.”

    Ms. Schletewitz, did you read the whole article? I wrote that he was already in prison doing life for murder when he ordered the other murders carried out. I wrote that he was the head of a gang of criminals. I wrote that he was a “poster child for the death penalty.” All of that is in the first few paragraphs. I’m against the death penalty personally, but I also personally believe the man was a monster who got what he deserved.

    I can assure you I certainly DID research this before I wrote it, spending several hours on it, and I can show you my sources. The Los Angeles Times article here http://articles.latimes.com/2006/jan/17/local/me-allen17 says he was legally blind and used a wheelchair among other health problems. Several news accounts also stated he had to be “assisted” or “helped” into the chamber by four correctional staff.

  5. Even if they did have to carry him, so what?
    If anyone deserved the death penalty, it was this guy.

  6. He did not have to be lifted from his chair. He walked in on his own and his vision was excellent. I was present as one of the twelve witnesses for the State of California.

    If you investigated this crime you would have learned that Clarence Allen committed his heinous crimes by putting fear into others and having them carry out his orders even while he served a Life Sentence at Folsom Prison. Allen was a danger to society as long as he could breathe.

    I am writing as a victim. Bryon Schletewitz was my brother. When my parents were alive, we were deeply hurt when journalists printed articles that did not include true facts. Please check your facts before writing articles that affect so many grieving innocents.

    Sometimes when facts are not printed correctly, it has made me feel as though I am being viewed as the cruel one and vengeful one. This is simply not fair to the victims of brutal, vengeful murderers such as Clarence Allen.

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