Legal Lynching in Texas Outrages the World

Jay Moore research at
Fri Jun 23 19:31:09 MDT 2000

With his dying breath, Graham tells America: This is a lynching

Outrage grows after appeals for clemency ignored and condemned man executed
while protesting his innocence to the end

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
The Independent (UK)
24 June 2000

George W Bush faced international condemnation and widespread accusations
that he had put an innocent man to death yesterday, after Texas ignored a
flurry of last-minute pleas on behalf of Gary Graham and executed him under
the full, impassioned glare of the world's media.

Reflecting growing outrage among European nations, the French government
declared that pressure for a moratorium on capital punishment in the United
States would be a central plank of its European Union presidency, which
begins next week.

The condemned man, who had vowed to "fight like hell" to stay alive,
struggled defiantly to the end, forcing prison guards to handcuff him and
clamp his head as they attached him to the execution chamber stretcher and
inserted the needles with which they administered their lethal drugs.

"This is what happens to a black man - genocide in America," Mr Graham said
in a final speech witnessed by weeping supporters including Bianca Jagger
and the Rev Jesse Jackson. "This is nothing more simple than murder,
statesanctioned murder in America. They know I'm innocent. They won't
acknowledge it."

Outside the prison in Huntsville, Texas, several hundred demonstrators
accused Mr Bush, the American state's Governor, of organising a lynching to
further his campaign to win the White House for the Republican Party this
November. "Thou shalt not kill! Thou shalt not kill!" the crowd chanted in a
highly-charged protest that led to clashes with armed police. One man
holding a large syringe burned an effigy of Mr Bush and shouted "Die! Die!".

In his dying moments, Mr Graham said: "We will prevail. Keep marching. Black
power. Keep marching. Black power. They are killing me tonight. They are
murdering me tonight." Then he went silent, one dying eye remaining open and
fixed on Mr Jackson and Robert Muhammad, his spiritual adviser.

Mr Graham was finally pronounced dead at 8.49pm local time on Thursday -
almost three hours after his scheduled appointment with death. Aside from
his own physical struggles, his lawyers spent the day petitioning every
authority they could think of, from the US Supreme Court to the Texas Court
of Appeals, and finally a federal civil court judge.

All of them refused to give further consideration to his allegations that he
had been woefully misrepresented by the defence lawyer at his original
trial, and that he could produce witnesses to back up his assertion that he
did not kill Bobby Lambert in a hold-up outside a Houston supermarket in
1981. Repeated attempts to have new evidence admitted in his case have all
failed. Earlier in the day, his petition for clemency had been turned down
by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose 17 voting members did not
discuss his case but merely faxed in their opinions from their homes and

Mr Bush, who had argued he was powerless to go against the recommendation of
his own parole board, spoke a few minutes before the execution saying he
backed its decision. "He's had full and fair access to the courts," Mr Bush
said, pointing out that the case had been heard by 33 different judges over
19 years. "After considering all the facts, I'm sure justice is being done."

Mr Bush has repeatedly asserted that all 135 prisoners executed during his
five years as governor were definitely guilty. However, an opinion poll
released this week showed that a majority of Texans, while supporting the
death penalty in principle, do not believe him.

The case can only add to America's growing disquiet on the issue, not least
because Mr Graham's final day - in stark contrast to almost all previous
executions - was broadcast blow-by-blow style on the news networks. Aside
from defence lawyers and civil rights activists, his cause was taken up by
several newspapers including The New York Times, which said there should
have been "deep doubts" about his conviction which Mr Bush had effectively

The execution also drew strong reaction from the United Nations human rights
representative, Mary Robinson, who said Texas was flouting international
conventions on the rights of minors. Mr Graham was just 17 at the time of
his arrest.

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