Stop This Legal Lynching!

Don't Let Bush Execute Gary Graham/Shaka Sankofa!

By: Carl Villarreal

The case of innocent death row inmate Gary Graham (who has changed his name to Shaka Sankofa) is coming to a head in Texas.

Shaka is accused of killing Bobby Lambert in a grocery store in Houston in 1981. There is no physical evidence connecting him to the shooting, and there is only one highly unreliable witness who has identified him. Yet there are multiple eyewitnesses who say Shaka is not the killer, and several alibi witnesses who have passed polygraph tests saying that Shaka was with them at the time.

On the legal side of things, Shaka has a final appeal pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, which may or may not review the case. If they don't, it will be up to Texas Gov. George W. Bush and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles -- a board Bush appointed -- to decide Shaka's fate.

Shaka's case highlights many of the problems with the criminal justice system in Texas. He is a poor Black man -- and he was a juvenile at the time of his alleged crime. His original attorneys were appointed because he couldn't afford one of his own. They assumed he was guilty, conducted no pretrial investigation and didn't present vital information at the trial.

Furthermore, racism is undoubtedly a factor in his case. On death row, he is now in one of the few state institutions where African-Americans are excessively over-represented -- you won't find such representation at the state universities where affirmative action has been cut or in the capitol building where white, wealthy males still dominate.

The Austin chapter of the Campaign has had some success in highlighting Shaka's case. On October 29 of last year, the Campaign held a rally in front of the governor's mansion on his behalf. About 200 people showed up at a rather lucky time -- Bush was holding a Halloween party on the lawn of the mansion, and Campaign members assembled just a few feet away from the front entrance chanting, "Free Gary Graham!" and "You Say Death Row, We Say Hell No!"

The governor tried to ignore us and later retreated into his mansion as police and guards showed up. But we managed to stand our ground and listen to speakers from the Campaign, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and the Gary Graham Coalition.

Campaigners explained to many of the children in costumes as well as their families that the scariest thing about Halloween was the boogie man in the governor's mansion.

Shaka is committed to fighting until the bitter end if need be. He has said he will physically resist any attempt to execute him and urges others to resist the authorities as well.

In a letter, Shaka told supporters that "a powerful people's movement is the only hope to prevent my legal lynching and to stop my execution. I place my life and my fate not in the hands of the racist white men on the Supreme Court but in the united and powerful hands of my sisters and brothers and the people."

Hopefully, we can organize just such a movement and stop Gov. George W. Bush and his Texas killing machine.