When Joseph Roger O'Dell was convicted of Helen Schartner's murder in 1986, he was sentenced to death in the electric chair. But a few years later a wealthy socialite divorcee named Lori Urs fell in love with him, and his fortunes changed. Urs campaigned nationally for his release, and when that didn't produce results, she went oversees -- the Roman Catholic country of Italy. There, O'Dell became a "hit" -- a symbol against the death penalty. Italian parliamentarians even passed measures denouncing the act. The U.S. Supreme Court stayed his execution on December 1996. This article discusses the facts, fables and implications of this trial on the eve of O'Dell's argument before the Supreme Court.
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