Governor Turns Down Clemency RequestDAVID REED , Associated Press
Jan. 3, 1986 10:21 PM ET
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Gov. Dick Riley on Friday refused to block next week's scheduled execution of a man who was 17 at the time he was charged with murdering two teen-agers.
Attorneys for James Terry Roach, who is now 25, had pleaded with the governor to commute his sentence on grounds that Roach is mentally ill, and that it is immoral to execute someone who was so young at the time of an offense.
''I have personally reviewed the trial record, the issues that have been raised on appeal, the clemency petition,'' Riley said Friday at a news conference. ''As a result, I can find no reason to intervene in the judicial process or to grant a request for clemency.''
Roach is scheduled to die in South Carolina's electric chair on Jan. 10 for the 1977 slayings.
Lawyer David Bruck, who is assisting Roach's attorneys, said they would discuss the case over the weekend before deciding what legal appeals might remain.
He would be the first minor offender involuntarily executed in this country since 1961. A Texas inmate who was 17 at the time he killed someone in a jewelry robbery was executed in September, but had told his lawyers not to fight his sentence.
Riley said the question of Roach's age at the time of the crimes ''was considered at every level of the trial and appellate process.''
Riley said an international agreement opposing the death penalty for young offenders was a matter for the courts. South Carolina's death penalty statute contains no age restriction.
Roach's lawyers argued that an international agreement signed by former president Jimmy Carter but never ratified by the Senate bars the execution of anyone who committed a capital crime when younger than 18.
They also said Roach is mentally retarded, with an IQ between 69 and 80, and that letting him die naturally could help researchers studying the brain disease Huntington's chorea, which has afflicted some Roach family members.
One year ago, Riley declined to commute the death sentence of Roach's codefendant, Joseph Carl Shaw, who was executed on Jan. 11, 1985.
Roach, a Seneca native, pleaded guilty to murdering Carlotta Hartness, 14, and Tommy Taylor, 17.
According to testimony from Ronald Eugene Mahaffey, who was given two life sentences when he was 16 for his involvement in the slayings, Roach shot Taylor twice in the face on Oct. 29, 1977. Roach's attorneys have since argued that Shaw acted alone in both killings.
Miss Hartness was kidnapped, raped and shot in the back of the head five times. Prosecutors say both Roach and Shaw fired the shots at the girl.
Roach also received a life sentence after confessing that he murdered a Columbia woman 12 days earlier.