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Italian clothier Benetton will write letters of apology and donate money to a victims compensation fund in a settlement with the state of Missouri over an ad campaign that featured death row inmates. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, who announced the settlement Friday, said the company will send apologies to four Missouri families whose relatives were killed by the inmates featured in the company’s “We on Death Row” advertising campaign. Benetton also will donate $50,000 to the Missouri Crime Victims Compensation Fund and immediately stop using the four Missouri inmates on the company’s Web site. “This is an appropriate resolution to a situation that caused renewed emotional pain for those who lost their loved ones to these four murderers,” Nixon said. Barry A. Short, a St. Louis attorney representing Benetton, said the company was relieved that the issue had been settled. “Obviously, Benetton views this lawsuit without merit and still does, but agrees with Attorney General Nixon that this is an appropriate resolution to the matter,” Short said. The “We on Death Row” project included a 96-page magazine supplement published last year and a photo feature on the company’s Web site. It was based on interviews with 26 condemned inmates from six states, including the four from Missouri. Death row inmates also were interviewed in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky and Oregon. The Missouri inmates appearing in the ads included Christopher Simmons, Joseph Amrine, Steven Parkus and Jerome Mallet. Mallett, who murdered Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper James Froemsdorf in March 1985, is scheduled to be executed July 11. Execution dates have not been set for the other three inmates. Benetton, an $11 billion, family-owned company, is known for its provocative ads aimed at sparking awareness of controversial social issues. Past campaigns have shown a priest and nun kissing, a dying AIDS patient and bloody victims of war. At the time of the campaign, the company said the photographs “aim at giving back a human face to the prisoners on death row.” While Benetton stands by the intentions of the campaign, the settlement is agreeable because the company has previously apologized for any grief the campaign has caused, Benetton spokesman Mark Major said. “This settlement also allows the company to limit any further costs associated with the lawsuit, while making a contribution to a worthwhile charity,” Major said. Nixon filed the lawsuit in February 2000 against Benetton and four individuals who worked on the project, alleging that they misrepresented the purpose of the interviews with the inmates and made false claims to state officials in gaining access to the Potosi prison. Most states condemned the campaign, and Sears, Roebuck & Co., a major chain of department stores, refused to sell Benetton products after protests from victims rights groups and threats of a boycott. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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