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The BBC's Stephen Sackur
talks to death row inmate Gary Graham
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 June, 2000, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Death row man talks to BBC
The lethal injection table
Some states have suspended the death penalty
By the BBC's Stephen Sackur in Texas

The Terrell prison in Texas is home to over 400 men condemned to death.

For the first time in a generation, Americans are expressing serious doubts about the death penalty, but in Texas, there is no let up in the killing.
Prionsers inside a fence
More than 400 men await death at Terrell prison

Gary Graham is due to die after 19 years on death row.

He was 17, a juvenile, with a record of violent crime, when he was convicted of murdering a white man, Bobby Lambert.

Witnesses never called

"I have always maintained my own innocence in the capital murder case. I did not kill Bobby Lambert," Graham said when I talked to him in the Terrell prison.

He says there is overwhelming evidence to prove his innocence, and adds: "I think the other robbery cases that I was involved in from day one have unfairly influenced the prosecution process."

Ron Hubbard saw the shooting of Bobby Lambert in a Houston car park. He and four other witnesses were never called to give evidence.

Gary Graham was convicted on the evidence of just one witness's testimony.

I asked Mr Hubbard if he was categorically sure that the man he saw shoot Bobby Lambert was not Gary Graham.

"That guy was not Gary Graham," Mr Hubbard insisted.

An uphill battle
George W Bush campaigns
George W Bush faces questions over the death peanlty

The Texas judicial system is loaded against Gary Graham's lawyer. Evidence showing that the gun police found on Graham could not have fired the fatal bullet has never been put before a jury.

"I really believe this man is innocent, and I really believe we are about to murder him because if he is innocent then we are murdering him if we put him to death. We can call it what we will, but it is still a state murder," said Richard Burr, Gary Graham's lawyer.

So a heavy responsibility rests on Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate, George W Bush, who has overseen more than 130 Texas executions in five years

With the death penalty still overwhelmingly popular in Texas, Governor Bush has little incentive to spare Gary Graham's life.

But the case raises awkward questions about the quality of American justice - questions that have prompted other states to re-think their use of the death penalty.

States reconsider

There was delight for friends and relatives of an Illinois man who was sentenced to die, but released after his innocence was proven.
Gary Graham, death row inmate
Gary Graham could face death soon

Illinois has overturned 13 death sentences, and now Republican Governor George Ryan has halted all executions.

In another powerful symbol, more than 30 people wrongfully sentenced to death recently gathered on one stage. They called it "dead men talking".

Several states may now follow Illinois's example.

Time running out

"I think there is a way to live, but I think there is also a way to die. And I think if you are going to die, you have to die with dignity," Graham said.

Gary Graham will soon be walking to the death chamber, to a lethal injection, unless Governor Bush intervenes.

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See also:

22 May 00 | Americas
Serial killer gets death penalty
03 May 00 | Americas
Woman executed in Arkansas
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