From Death Row, Joseph Roger O'Dell III has rallied Pope John Paul II and the Italian government to his side, along with some high-powered lawyers, a New York public relations firm and a close friend on a crusade to prove him innocent.
They have until Wednesday night to keep the 54-year-old O'Dell from lethal injection for raping and murdering a Virginia Beach woman in 1985.
The courts and Gov. George Allen have rejected O'Dell's claims of innocence and request for more-sophisticated DNA tests of semen taken from the victim, Helen Schartner.
Paul F. Enzinna, one of O'Dell's lawyers, said the inmate's advocates have been galvanized by two factors: "There is no doubt that the sentencing hearing in which he was sentenced to death is unconstitutional today, and they won't let us test DNA evidence that could prove the guy's innocence."
The case has gotten extraordinary attention in Italy, where opposition to capital punishment runs high. The Parliament and the pope have asked Allen and President Clinton for clemency.