Only a miracle can help the brothers

From: "Mannheimer Morgen" Germany
February 20, 1999

Bonn attempts to save Germans convicted in the USA from execution

From our correspondent

Uwe Knuepfer

Washington. "Sometimes miracles happen," Juergen Chrobog tries to be encouraging. The German Ambassador in Washington will once more ask for mercy for Karl LaGrand. If no miracle happens, LaGrand will die that day; his brother, Walter, will die on March 3. The preparations for the executions have begun. The gas chamber in Florence must be cleaned; it has not been used for a long time. Most of the executions in the USA take place by mean of poisonous injection. The gas chamber is only put into use when the convicted person has expressly stated this as a preference. Death in this way is viewed as unnecessarily gruesome.

The crime for which the brothers were sentenced to death was also gruesome. In 1982 they held up a bank in Arizona. They tied up the bank director and stabbed him with a letter opener. Karl LaGrand was 18 years old at the time, Walter, 19. They have been sitting on death row since 1984. Their appeals have run out.

The German administration has made it their business to fight for the lives of the brothers. Federal President Herzog and Federal Chancellor Schroeder have written letters to President Clinton, with the request to forward their letters to Jane Hull, the Governor of Arizona. Chrobog spoke with her this week. "I was not received with a great deal of emotion," he said at the conclusion. Hull has been in office a short time. In her first speech before the state assembly she verified that she was a proponent of the death penalty.

The decision by the LaGrand brothers to opt for the gas chamber may have been an attempt to motivate protest of the death sentence, and, if possible, to obtain yet another postponement of their executions. Hull had listened to the ambassador without stating her own opinion. She only made reference to a process before the board of pardons on Monday. If the board should make a positive recommendation, she will "think over" Chrobog's arguments.

From the view of the German government, the LaGrand brothers are not Americans, but Germans. Walter was born in Dillingen, Karl in Augsburg. They have the same mother, but different fathers. In 1966, their mother married a member of the US Army who was stationed in Augsburg. The next year the family moved to the USA, and Sergeant LaGrand adopted the boys; at least that is what the US officials stated. Chrobog spoke of a "purported adoption."

The German Consulate in Los Angeles is looking after the LaGrand's legal needs. However, the brothers had only public defenders during their trials. From Bonn's point of view, that contradicts the Vienna Consular Rights Convention. Chrobog will state before the board of pardons that the deed was done in the heat of the moment, that the brothers have been "model prisoners," and that they had "a terrible childhood."

The dispute over the death sentence is not untimely for Bonn, since the US State Department will be presenting another report in which "Violators of Human Rights" will be scourged. Once again this brings up the proceedings being taken by the German authorities against the Scientologists. In response to that aspect, Chrobog stated, "Many things about America have also occurred to me."

German Scientology News