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Gov. Easley Hears First Clemency Request

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RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley was asked Tuesday to consider clemency for a death row inmate.

A solemn procession of death penalty opponents filed into Easley's office Tuesday afternoon. Their goal was to get the new governor to grant clemency to Bobby Lee Harris, 34, who was convicted of the 1991 first-degree murder of a shrimper near Jacksonville. Harris is scheduled to be executed Friday morning.

His biggest supporter has been his fiance, Daggi Polzin, a German woman who wrote to him after seeing him in a Benetton ad, which featured death row inmates.

"I don't like injustice," Polzin says. "I am very, very hopeful that he gets clemency. I believe in our governor. He's a human."

The decision whether or not to let Harris die Friday at Central Prison is one that is supposed to be based on the law. Harris' attorney, Mark Edwards, says there is a compelling argument for clemency. He says Harris is borderline mentally retarded.

"This is not a death penalty case," Edwards says. "The general public may not recognize this. It's not a case that if we're going to have the death penalty that the situation deserves this punishment."

Edwards planned to tell Easley that the attorney who represented Harris at his trial was dying of bone cancer at the time, preventing the defendant from getting the best representation.

Doctors also say that the victim, John Redd, died because of poor medical care at the hospital. Under different circumstances, the case could have been an attempted murder charge, where the death penalty would not have been an option.

Dewey Hudson, Onslow County's district attorney, disagrees.

"I would certainly contend that this is an appropriate case for the governor not to intervene," he says. "The evidence of guilt is overwhelming. This is one of those cases not about whether the defendant committed the murder. He confessed in detail to the murder."

Easley will not comment until a decision is made.


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