STARKE, Fla. (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a stay of execution for a Florida inmate who orchestrated the 1987 ambush murder of a prison guard, then published three books and maintained a blog while on death row.
William Van Poyck (pronounced poyk) is set to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Florida State Prison for the murder of prison guard Fred Griffis. His case garnered international attention because Van Poyck went on to write books.
The 58-year-old Van Poyck declined a final meal and visited Wednesday with his sister, four friends and a spiritual adviser.
Van Poyck and Frank Valdes ambushed a prison van outside a West Palm Beach doctor's office in a failed attempt to free their friend, James O'Brien. Griffis was fatally shot.
One possibility is to seek asylum in a place that does not have an extradition pact with the United States -- there are a few in Asia a short flight away from Hong Kong where he was last spotted, but none where he is guaranteed refuge.
On Tuesday the 29-year-old Snowden's whereabouts were unknown, a day after he checked out of a trendy hotel in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong. But large photos of his face were splashed on most Hong Kong newspapers with headlines such as "Deep Throat Hides in HK," and "World's Most Wanted Man Breaks Cover in Hong Kong."
The coverage is likely to increase the chances of him being recognized although he could still blend with the city's tens of thousands of expatriates from the United States, Britain, Australia and Europe.
If and when the Justice Department charges him — and it's not certain when that will be — its next step will likely be to ask the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, for a provisional request to arrest him pending extradition to the United States.
Assuming that Snowden is still in Hong Kong, the judicial proceedings for an extradition request could take a year, and once completed it would be up to Hong Kong's leader, known as the chief executive, to decide on handing over Snowden, said Michael Blanchflower, a Hong Kong lawyer with three decades of experience in extradition cases.
"Ultimately it is his decision," he said.
But even if the chief executive allows the extradition, the fugitive can request a judicial review and those decisions could be appealed up through three court levels, Blanchflower said.
Although a semiautonomous part of China, the former British colony has an independent justice system based on the British legal structure.
One option for Snowden would be to claim he is the object of political persecution, and fight the issue in the courts to avoid extradition. He could argue that he would be subject to cruel and humiliating treatment in the United States. Hong Kong changed its regulations six months ago to require that a court consider cruel and humiliating treatment and not simply torture when considering extradition requests.
It's up to "the Chief Executive to determine whether the offence is one that's of a political character, in which case the extradition is blocked," said Hong Kong-based lawyer, Tim Parker.
However, the strategy carries considerable risk because the U.S. could simply provide diplomatic assurances that he would not be subject to cruel or humiliating treatment.
"At that point it would be difficult for Hong Kong to resist deporting him," said Patricia Ho, a Hong Kong lawyer who specializes in asylum and refugee claims.
But as things stand now, there is nothing to prevent Snowden from traveling to a destination of his choice -- to one of the handful of nearby jurisdictions or countries that do not have extradition treaties with the United States.
One of the Asian countries without an American treaty is China, though there is no guarantee Beijing would want to risk a confrontation with the United States by taking Snowden in, even if it gained a windfall of sensitive American intelligence information in the process. Snowden himself has given no indication that he is prepared to cooperate with any foreign intelligence service, including China's.
China's state media has confined its coverage of the Snowden affair to factual reports, and on online social media, China's relatively unfettered venue for public discourse, comments have been largely muted.
"People in China are used to not having security and privacy on the internet, so this does not come as a big surprise," Peking University journalism professor Hu Yong said in an interview. Official media, Hu said, would "try not to focus too much on how wrong the practice is, or whether the leaker is right or wrong. They will use the news to highlight that China is not the only country with such practices."
Another Asian flight possibility for Snowden is the self-governing island of Taiwan, which split from China in 1949 after a protracted civil war, and since 1979, has not had formal diplomatic relations with the U.S.
In lieu of a formal extradition treaty, American extraction requests to Taiwan are examined on a case by case basis.
An official at the de facto U.S. Embassy in Taipei — the American Institute in Taiwan — said Taiwan has generally been cooperative on the extradition issue.
"Taipei has so far been pretty good on responding to our requests," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Also, any attempt by Snowden to come to Taiwan could prove extremely embarrassing to the government of Ma Ying-jeou, which while doing its best to improve relations with China, also seeks to maintain close ties with the United States, its major security backer. An official at the Justice Ministry said Tuesday there were no indications at all that Snowden would make any attempt to land on the island.
Aside from numerous flights from Hong Kong's busy international airport, Snowden could take an hour-long high speed ferry ride to Macau, also a semiautonomous region of China. From Macau he could hop over to Guangdong province in mainland China.
Beyond Taiwan and China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and North Korea are also theoretical destinations for Snowden, because they lack extradition treaties with the U.S. But the communist or authoritarian systems they share make them unlikely destinations for a man who has gone to considerable lengths to portray his decision to reveal National Security Agency surveillance programs as an act of conscience.
Outside of Asia, Snowden might also consider seeking asylum in countries like Iceland and Russia. According to the Kommersant Daily, Moscow has said it might provide asylum. But Russia is also an authoritarian nation, so there is no guarantee that Snowden would accept any offer that Moscow rendered.
__ Enav reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Chris Bodeen in Hong Kong and AP video-journalist Isolda Morillo in Beijing contributed to this report.
In a possible sign of the seriousness of Mandela's condition, daughter Zenani Mandela — South Africa's ambassador to Argentina — arrived at the hospital to see her father. Former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela also visited.
Mandela's doctors briefed President Jacob Zuma on the former president's health late Monday, the president said in a statement. Mandela remained in serious but stable condition, it said.
School children gathered outside his home in a Johannesburg suburb on Tuesday and sang songs expressing hope the former president would recover.
Mandela, the leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, spent 27 years in prison during white racist rule. He was freed in 1990, and then embarked on peacemaking efforts during the tense transition that saw the demise of the apartheid system and his own election as South Africa's first black president in 1994.
His admission to a hospital in Pretoria, the capital, is Mandela's fourth time being admitted to a hospital for treatment since December. His last discharge came April 6 after doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia and drained fluid from his lung area.
At Johannesburg's Apartheid Museum on Tuesday, visitors walked through an exhibit showcasing the life of Mandela amid a feeling in the country that this hospitalization may be more serious than previous ones.
"All these admissions to the hospital has been preparing us for this, that this may be the end, and that is enough to tell us this is very serious," said Father Victor Phalana of Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pretoria, who was touring the museum with two Catholic priests from Uganda.
Outside Mandela's Johannesburg home, school children from the Rainbow Hill Christian School sang words of encouragement. "We love you Mandela ... get well, get well," they sang.
Lebogang Serite, a 12-year-old student at the school, said she "couldn't be in a white people's school" had it not been for Mandela's anti-apartheid efforts. "He means a lot to me because he fought for the country. I couldn't be in a white people's school," she said.
"I know that if he was able to speak, he was going to play with them today. Unfortunately, wherever he is, he's not well, but I know that he worked very, very hard for us. That's why we are here," said Mama Zodwa, a 57-year-old teacher from the school.
On Monday a foundation led by retired archbishop Desmond Tutu described Mandela as an "extraordinary gift" and offered prayers for his comfort and dignity. The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation described Mandela as "the beloved father of our nation."
Mandela is seen by many around the world as a symbol of reconciliation because of his peacemaking role when white racist rule ended in South Africa. Tutu, 81, was also vigorous campaigner against apartheid, which ended when all-race elections were held in 1994 and Mandela president.
Like Mandela, Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of his compatriots. Mandela shared his prize in 1993 with F.W. de Klerk, the last president of the apartheid era.
In its brief statement on Mandela's health, the presidency said Zuma "reiterates his call for South Africa to pray for Madiba and the family during this time," referring to Mandela by his clan name.
Mandela has been particularly vulnerable to respiratory problems since contracting tuberculosis during 27 years as the prisoner of the white racist government. The bulk of that period was spent on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town where Mandela and other prisoners spent part of the time toiling in a stone quarry.
He was freed in 1990, and then embarked on peacemaking efforts during the tense transition that saw the demise of the apartheid system and his own election as president in 1994.
The former leader retired from public life years ago and had received medical care at his Johannesburg home until his latest transfer to a hospital.
___ Associated Press Television News reporter Bongani Mthethwa and Associated Press reporter Wandoo Makurdi in Johannesburg contributed to this report.