Then the party’s spokesman on foreign affairs, Mr Mitchell made the appeal in 2003 in a bid to prevent double killer Paul Hill being given a lethal injection on Florida’s death row.
Former presbyterian minister Hill was convicted of the murder of a doctor and his bodyguard outside an abortion clinic in the US state in 1994.
Mr Mitchell pleaded at the time that Hill had committed a senseless crime, but that executing him would only perpetuate the cycle of taking life.
Then Florida governor Jeb Bush ignored the plea and Hill — who said he was a martyr for his anti-abortion cause — was put to death by injection.
Mr Mitchell’s spokesperson denied comparisons could be drawn between the intervention and the controversy which David Norris became involved in.
“Mr Mitchell did it because he is an implacable opponent of the death penalty.
“It is different [to the Norris situation] in that he was seeking that the death penalty be replaced by a term in prison. He wasn’t seeking mitigation,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Mitchell has also intervened on behalf of other prisoners facing the death penalty, the spokesperson said.
Prior to the spectacular withdrawal from the presidential race by Mr Norris, the most high-profile political casualty of involvement in legal cases came in 2002 when former PD Minister Bobby Molloy resigned. He was forced to quit after becoming involved in the case of rapist Patrick Naughton.
A person representing the then Galway West TD attempted to contact a judge to ascertain if letters from Naughton’s sister had been received. The intervention was branded “quite improper” by the judge and Molloy resigned within hours.