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GRAHAM SUCCUMBS TO "STATE-SANCTIONED MURDER."(story)...(petition)...(bill)

Tells Victim's Family He Didn't Do It.

Calls For Posthumous Trial at International Court.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, Defense Attorney: "The worst thing a state can do is to have a process which is unfair. Everybody makes mistakes, but the process in Texas pits brilliant lawyers...against poor people who had -- there is no public defender system in Texas, and the Governor George against it. There's no money available to defend people charged with murder, and George in favor of that. There is no criteria for selecting the lawyers, and they're mostly selected on cronyism, and Mr. Bush {is] in favor of that.

"A high percentage of the lawyers who depend people in capital cases have been disbarred or otherwise disciplined, and Mr. Bush defends that. It's the process that's unfair. It's not that there are mistakes, it's the inevitability of mistakes, the deliberate building in of a bias in favor of execution in the state of Texas, which makes it the posterchild for the improper imposition of the death penalty. This is not about the death penalty as a moral issue; it's about whether or not Texas imposes it fairly, and it is the worst state in the Union in terms of fairness in imposing death penalty." --on Larry King Live, 6/22

Gary Graham. "Graham had been on death row in Texas for nearly 20 years for killing a man during a 1981 supermarket robbery. A 17-year-old at the time, he was convicted on the testimony of a single eyewitness who claimed she saw Graham from 30 to 40 feet away in a dark parking lot. Three other eyewitnesses could not make a positive identification of Graham at the crime scene. A store employee who said he saw the shooter fleeing told police Graham was not the killeróbut he was never called to testify. And none of Graham's fingerprints or DNA was found at the scene." (more)

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied Gary Graham's appeal by a vote of 5-4 and the execution has taken place. Naturally, if George W. Bush were to become president and have the opportunity to nominate 3 new judges, one would assume that future votes would not be as close. On a religious note, it turns out that the Bible specfically states that no one should be put to death on the basis of the testimony of a single eyewitnesses. On a legal note, according to crime novelist James Elroy, representatives of the L.A. police department have told him that in L.A. no one would be tried for murder on the basis of such skimpy evidence. On the other hand, since L.A.'s O.J. was found innocent in spite of a wealth of evidence that suggested otherwise, there appears to be a relationship between wealth and justice. Gary Graham, being poor, was left to the mercy of the Texas legal system, which consisted of a young, inexperienced lawyer who assumed he was guilty, so he never undertook the normal investigation that is carried out to defend one's client. Even though there was only one piece of evidence against him, Graham lacked O.J.'s cash, so he had to settle for a defense provided by the state. Since then, his lawyer, Mr. Mock, has been given five reprimands by the state of Texas. Meanwhile, so many of his clients are scheduled for execution in Texas that the building that death row is housed in is called "The Mock House." On appeal, Graham was saddled with more legal incompetence, and telling evidence in his favor still remained unpresented. Then, when some competent lawyers later took the case, they were told by the courts that it was too late to present that evidence. When we are told that Grahm's case was reviewed over and over, at no time were the considerations based upon evidence, only open legally acceptable procedure. Graham's case had to do with evidence not presented by incompetent lawyers, not with procedure. He was never given his fair day in court. He lived in Texas and he was too poor to be assured of competent lawyers. --Politex, 6:20-8:49, 6/22


Board Decides Against Graham, 12-5

Bush Campaign HQ: 512-637-2000 Or click here to Email them....Or here.

Statements in Amnesty International Appeal... Graham was represented at trial by a court-appointed lawyer who failed to investigate his case. Eye witnesses who said Gary WAS NOT the gunman WERE NOT CALLED TO TESTIFY. In 1993, new lawyers investigated his case and discovered compelling evidence which conclusively establishes his innocence.

At least five eyewitnesses state that Graham was not the gunman and did not meet the physical description of the gunman.

Four alibi witnesses passed polygraph tests.

A ballistics report withheld from the jury proved the gun that prosecutors presented trial was not the gun used in the crime.

In 1981, a 17 year-old Gary Graham was convicted and sentenced to death for robbery/murder of a white man, by a nearly all white jury based on the testimony of a single eyewitness who saw the gunman for brief seconds from a distance of 30 to 40 feet while sitting in a car in a dark parking lot. No other evidence linked him to the offense-no fingerprints, no confession, and no gun. read entire appeal

Frequently Asked Questions.

1. Graham had 19 years to appeal his guilty verdict and make use of the Texas appeals system. Since he was unable to get his original verdict overturned, doesn't that indicate his guilt? Not in Texas, where the appeals system has been slashed to the very barest minimum required by federal law, and when even that severely weakened system is riddled with injustice and error. Both Texas judges and national and international legal groups have attested to the barbaric, ineffectual level of appeals justice in Texas.

2. If the jury wasn't absolutely sure of Graham's guilt, why didn't they sentence him to life in prison without parole? Because there is no such sentence in Texas. Further, three of the original jurors have recently said that if all of the evidence that was available at the time had been presented to them, they never would have sentenced Graham to death. Both the prosecution and the defense withheld information.

Do you have a question? Please ask.

If You Wish to Register Your Opinion:

The presidential campaign office number is 512 637 2000: the receptionist will transfer you to the policy division. The Governor's office is 512 463 2000: if you state you are calling re the death penalty issue, you will be put onto an answering machine with 60 seconds to record a message about the death penalty.
The office of executive clemency and parole board hearings is 512 463 1679. A polite human being will take your message and pass it on to the office and board etc.

Why Bush Believes Backing Executions is Good Politics.

Americans Support the Death Penalty. "85 percent of Republicans support the death penalty in some form, compared with 66 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Independents. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans say they continue to support capital punishment, [a] Newsweek poll says. Just 19 percent of Americans favor the abolition of the death penalty. Still, the Newsweek poll shows almost universal sentiment (95%) that states should permit DNA testing in all death-row cases where it might prove an inmate's guilt or innocence," indicating that while most Americans support executions, they are concerned about the guilt of those executed. (here) and (here)

Bush Enjoys Being on the Popular Side of the Execution Issue. "In 1999, Talk magazine caught Bush making fun of Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War. Earlier this year, at a campaign debate sponsored by CNN, the cameras showed the governor chuckling over the case of Calvin Burdine, whose lawyer fell asleep at his trial." (more)

Most Americans Believe Bush Lies About the Reasons Behind His Capital Punishment Policy. Most Americans (59%) believe Bush was motivated by politics in granting a stay of execution for Ricky McGinn. Yet, his spokesman has claimed otherwise. "Governor Bush makes decisions based on what's right, not on public opinion polls or politics," Bush campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan said Saturday. (more)

Bush's Most Quoted Comment Is Not Credible."I'm confident that every person that has been put to death in Texas under my watch has been guilty of the crime charged and has had full access to the courts," Bush has declared. Yet, "the 18-member Board of Pardons and Paroles, whose members -- all appointed by Bush -- fax in their votes on clemency and reprieve decisions without stating the reason behind them, has drawn criticism even from Austin-based U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks. Sparks called the board's process "appalling," barely meeting the minimal procedural safeguards required by the United States Constitution." (more)

Texas Ranks High in World-Wide Executions. "In 1999, China easily led all nations with 1,077 executions, followed distantly by Iran (165), Saudi Arabia (103), Democratic Republic of the Congo (100) and the United States (98)." Texas led the number of U.S. executions with 36, making it the state that has executed more people than most countries. All of our major allies except Japan have abandoned the death penalty. Last year Texas executed more people than Japan. (more)

Bush's Questionable Belief. While Governor Bush supports executions because he believes they serve to deter others from committing crimes requiring capital punishment, most studies do not indicate that this is the case. Further, our system of justice is so seriously flawed that it's a given that the innocent have been executed along with the guilty, and this will not stop with the use of DNA evidence. (here)and (here)
Breaking News. Today the U.S. Supreme Court took a prisoner off Texas' death row because he was to be executed, in part, because he is Hispanic. (more)

Why Bush Wants Speedy Executions. "Unless executions are dramatically speeded up (unlikely after so many mistakes), the death penalty will remain far more expensive than life without parole. The difference is in the up front prosecution costs, which are at least four times greater than in cases where death is not sought. California spends an extra $90 million on its capital cases beyond the normal costs of the system. Even subtracting pro bono defense, the system is no bargain for taxpayers." (more)

Next Up: Gary Graham. "Graham has been on death row in Texas for nearly 20 years for killing a man during a 1981 supermarket robbery. A 17-year-old at the time, he was convicted on the testimony of a single eyewitness who claimed she saw Graham from 30 to 40 feet away in a dark parking lot. Three other eyewitnesses could not make a positive identification of Graham at the crime scene. A store employee who said he saw the shooter fleeing told police Graham was not the killeróbut he was never called to testify. And none of Graham's fingerprints or DNA was found at the scene. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case; he is scheduled for execution June 22." (more)

Image by Wizard of Whimsy



"Texas is 50th in the country in mental-health funding and first in executions. Something is wrong with that picture."--Lois Robinson.
"People must ask if we can trust a president who will execute the mentally ill."--Melodee Smith
"I don't think the moral dimensions enter into [his] politician's mind."--David Atwood

"In Texas ó as is true in other parts of the country ó the death penalty is very much a vote getter," said Victor Streib, dean of the Ohio Northern University College of Law.




People don't know what's going on in Texas. "What's going on in Texas is an escalation in the number and frequency of executions, including the execution of juvenile offenders, the mentally retarded, and -- most contentiously -- the mentally ill," writes Erica C. Barnett. Convicted killer Larry Robinson had said he felt "like a little kid at Christmas, waiting for Santa Claus to come." David Atwood, head of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, says, "There's no question in my mind that [Robinson] had severe psychological problems" at the time of the murders. "People say that if you talked to Larry you would not think anything was wrong with him, but that if you talked to him for any extended period of time it would become increasingly obvious." "Atwood believes that Gov. George W. Bush is not at all bothered by the moral implications of executing someone who is mentally ill. 'Everything is a political decision with him,' says Atwood. 'I don't think the moral dimensions ever enter into the politician's mind.'"

Gov. Bush says he's 'compassionate,' but he let a mentally ill man die


Reprinted by permission of San Antonio Current, (c)2000.

In the weeks leading up to Larry Keith Robison's first scheduled execution date -- August 17, 1999 -- his mother, Lois, told him things she wanted him to remember: what a good student he once was, about games he played as a little boy, and that she was glad she had him. Before she left him that day, he looked at her for a long time without blinking and finally said, "I am sending you love with my heart." When Lois waved goodbye to her son, she thought it would be for the last time. Instead, just hours before he was to be injected with a heart-stopping cocktail of drugs -- paid for by the citizens of the state of Texas -- Robison was granted a stay of execution.

Somewhere between the Boy Scout youth Lois Robison remembers and the 16 years her son has spent on Huntsville's notorious Ellis Unit One, something went terribly wrong. Fingers of blame can be pointed at an underfunded and overburdened mental health system, at ill-prepared public defenders, and, of course, at Robison himself. However, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination as the "law and order governor," will share a large part of the blame if Robison is killed on his rescheduled execution date of January 21.

By the beginning of the upcoming Iowa and New Hampshire Presidential primaries, the Lone Star State is scheduled to execute eight men. They include two who committed their crimes as juveniles, one who claims to have been convicted on a faulty DNA test, and several with questionable mental competency. The controversy of these cases -- combined with growing calls around the world for a moratorium in which to evaluate the efficacy of the practice -- will put Texas' efficient killing machine in the national and international spotlight. What this all means for the life of Larry Robison remains to be seen.

"Something violent"

Lois Robison tells a harrowing story in a soft, quiet voice. A former school teacher, she says she first noticed Larry's strange behavior when he was 12 years old. In 1979, after years of increasingly bizarre actions, use of hallucinogenic drugs, and an honorable discharge from the Air Force -- which booted him out of the service rather than providing Robison with psychiatric treatment -- he was finally diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic by emergency room doctors.

Over the next few years, Robison's condition deteriorated. He built a pyramid over his bed because he believed it would make his brain work better. He told his family the CIA was chasing him, that he was responsible for everything on the news, that the TV was making fun of him. Because Robison was over the age of 21, not covered by insurance, and would not willingly enter a mental institution, his family's requests for help and treatment for their son were repeatedly denied. They once left him in jail for six months because they did not want him back on the streets. Moreover, they were told the state could not intervene until he did "something violent." So on August 10, 1972, Robison gave the state something.

At the end of a bloody rampage near Lake Worth, Texas, Robison's roommate and reported lover, Rickey Lee Bryant, was beheaded. Robison later told police that he consumed Bryant's testicles. Robison also killed neighbor Georgia Ann Reed; Reed's son, Scott; Reed's mother, Earline Barker; and another man, Bruce Gardner. Robison was given the death penalty only for Gardner's death.

The number of murders was five, and if the state of Texas has its way, Larry Robison will be the sixth death that might well have been avoided had Robison received the psychiatric help he needed. Under a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, mentally ill defendants cannot be executed unless they understand their death sentence and why it is being administered. Yet in resetting his execution date to January 21, 1999, State District Judge Everett Young only was required to find Robison competent enough to understand he is going to die. Robison's lawyer, Melodee Smith, disputes Young's finding and says Robison's condition makes it extremely difficult to determine his mental competency. "Just because he is smart does not mean he is not mentally ill," said Smith. "He moves in and out of mental competency." However, it is certain that he will not be competent at the time of execution because of the stress that situation would place on him." Robison does not dispute his role in the murders, but says he was delusional during the slayings. And he may still be: He requested the January 21 execution date because it is the night of a full moon.

Compassion vs. mercy

Robison has Smith's permission to file a petition of clemency. "I am traveling to the Governor's office next week to beg for mercy," she says. "Governor Bush must understand that there is no legal remedy in this case. He must have the courage to do the right thing. And people must ask if we can trust a president who will execute the mentally ill."

There is little reason to believe that this case will tug on Bush's heart strings any more than did the case of Karla Faye Tucker. Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War, was by all accounts "born again," off drugs for the first time since she was 11 years old, and completely rehabilitated. She received support from many prominent figures, including Pat Robertson. A recently published Talk magazine interview with Bush, written by Tucker Carlson, detailed the following exchange:

"In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, 'Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker.' 'Did you meet with any of them?' I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. 'No, I didn't meet with any of them,' he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. 'I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions like, 'What would you say to Governor Bush?'

'What was her answer?' I wonder.

"'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.'

"I must look shocked. Ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anti-crime as Bush because he immediately stops smirking."

According to Carlson, the Larry King-Karla Faye exchange never took place. Bush made it up.

Village? What village?

Lois Robison had never given a speech before she began telling her son's story publicly. Now she can stand up on command and give the "three-minute version," as she did for hospital administrators when she could not find treatment for her daughter, who also has schizophrenia. (Her daughter was eventually placed in a full-time care facility.) "Texas is 50th in the country in mental-health funding and first in executions," said Lois Robison. "Something is wrong with that picture."

Johnny Paul Penry does not have a mother like Lois Robison. Penry was scheduled to be executed on January 13, 1999, for the 1979 rape and murder of Pamela Carter, but was granted a stay. Reports say that as a child, Penry's own mother dunked him in scalding water and made him eat his own feces. Placed in state custody at age five, Penry left school after first grade and has an IQ of 53 -- which corresponds to the mental functioning of a seven-year-old child. It was Penry's case that ended in a controversial 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that permitted the death penalty for the mentally retarded. Next month, the Fifth Circuit Court will reconsider Penry's mental capacity.

This past fall, Bush's office squelched a bill that would have outlawed execution of mentally retarded persons in Texas.

Prosecutors in the Robison case say his admitted drug use caused schizophrenia-like symptoms. However, representatives from the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) say drug use is more an effect of mental illness than a cause. However, drugs can exacerbate existing problems.

NMHA spokeswoman Leann McNee said the Robison case is part of a growing national concern with jails becoming the nation's newest mental hospitals. The Association cites a 1999 U.S. Department of Justice study that says 16 percent of the prison population is mentally ill. The study also showed that mentally ill prisoners are not significantly more likely than others to be in prison for violent crime. However, they are twice as likely to have been homeless, physically and/or mentally abused, and drug users before landing in prison.

The world is watching (or is it?) "In Switzerland, they call Bush a serial killer," says Smith, who ust returned from Europe, where the European Union commissioners recently voted in favor of a resolution for the commuting of Robison's sentence. "He [Bush] is in a difficult position because he needs the nod of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. He needs to send them a signal that this is what he wants to do. He has been let off the hook so far, but now it comes down to him."

Meanwhile, as improvements in DNA testing spring dozens of wrongly convicted men from prison, as the old Soviet gulag ghettos of Ukraine and Turkmenistan outlaw capital punishment, and as the Coliseum in Rome is lit every time a death sentence is commuted, the 114th person to be executed since George W. Bush took office will soon face the needle.

Maybe Bush is taking a hint from the masterful yet disgusting first national campaign of our current president. Then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton rushed home from the campaign trail in January 1992 to oversee the execution of Ricky Lee Rector, a man so severely mentally disabled that he left the pecan pie from his final meal with a guard -- Rector wanted to eat it after his execution. Bush has said he considers each death penalty case "thoughtfully and carefully," but at a rate of one execution nearly every 10 days, that seems doubtful. It is this air of callous non-engagement that most angers death penalty opponents.

Locally, a few onlookers turned to watch a small group of protesters sing "Amazing Grace" at Alamo Plaza on August 17, Larry Robison's initial execution date. One of the demonstration organizers, Judy Lackritz, said when she made a commitment to gather with other death penalty opponents at noon each day of a scheduled execution, "they had no idea what they were getting into." Some 35 vigils later, they have been joined by other activists and occasional curious passersby. "We have said we will do this until the death penalty is ended," says Lackritz. The group will hold a gathering in thanks on January 13 to honor Johnny Paul Penry's stay. They will also hold a vigil at noon on January 21. That night, Larry Robison's spirit will likely rise to meet his full moon, while George W. Bush again tells voters in New Hampshire that he is ready to lead our nation.

Jenny Browne is a regular contributor to the San Antonio Current.

For more information about Larry Robison's case and the death penalty in Texas:

Death Penalty Information Center

Amnesty International Death Penalty Initiative

Larry Robison

Johnny Paul Penry

48 Hours special on Larry Robison

Thursday January 13 9pm CST

"The Execution Machine: Texas Death Row" America Undercover

Tuesday January 25 11pm HBO

Friday January 28 11pm HBO

Click here to see the 113 death row inmates executed in Texas since Gov. George W. Bush's inauguration on January 17, 1995.

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