Pope John Paul II has renewed his appeal for authorities to spare the life of Derek R Barnabei, who is scheduled to be executed in Virginia at midday today Sydney time, for the rape and murder of a 17-year-old student.
    A US federal judge has already refused to stop the execution, rebuffing defence arguments that state officials had deliberately tampered with evidence in the 1993 crime.
    Over the last few months, Barnabei's case has become the latest rallying point for death penalty opponents in Italy who find their champion in the Holy Father, who has come out repeatedly against putting criminals to death.
    "I make an appeal for the Derek Rocco Barnabei, condemned to death," the Pope said in impromptu remarks that drew applause during his weekly public audience in St Peter's Square.
    Invoking the "spirit of clemency," John Paul said he was "again uniting my voice to that of all those who ask that Derek Rocco Barnabei's life not be taken away".
    Referring to his many past pronouncements against capital punishment, John Paul continued: "I hope still, in a more general sense, that we reach the point where capital punishment is renounced, given that nations today have other means of efficiently repressing crime without definitely taking away the possibility of self-redemption."
    Barnabei, insisting he is innocent, contends he has been framed.
15 Sep 00

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