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Sharpton, Glover Rail Against Texas Death Penalty

Danny Glover and Al Sharpton
Actor Danny Glover (left) and activist Al Sharpton support a conditional pardon for convicted killer Gary Graham who is on death row in Texas  

June 9, 2000
Web posted at: 1:48 p.m. EDT (1748 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Movie Star Danny Glover joined activist Al Sharpton outside the U.S. Capitol Thursday to challenge Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the likely Republican presidential nominee, to give a "conditional" pardon to convicted killer Gary Graham.

"We're here because we believe and know that the death penalty is unfair," Glover said. "It's unjust and inhumane. We're here for the life of Gary Graham."

Noting Bush's calls for an inclusive campaign in his presidential bid, the activists implored him to display some compassion.

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"Mr. Bush, you claim you want to reach out. You can not extend to us a peace pipe that has gun powder in it," Sharpton said. "You must extend a peace pipe that represents peace and justice and fairness.''

However, Bush spokesman Mike Jones told CNN by phone that since former Gov. Ann Richards had already given Graham his one-time, 30-day reprieve, Bush is powerless to do so unless the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends a pardon.

Graham was sentenced to death for the murder and robbery of Bobby Lambert in a Houston parking lot in 1981. He is scheduled to be executed on June 22.

Graham, who now prefers the name Shaka Sankofa, pleaded guilty to 10 robberies, but has maintained his innocence in the murder. His case has been reviewed approximately 30 times by Texas courts, but none has ever granted a new trial. His supporters say there are witnesses who were never called at his trial who would testify that Graham was not the shooter. The conviction was based largely on the testimony of one witness.

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Attorney Ashanti Chimurenga contends that the witness was unreliable and that other witnesses point to another man as the shooter. "We do not seek clemency or a life sentence, although we seek that over death," Chimurenga said. "We seek a conditional pardon. He is innocent.''

The activists said Illinois Gov. George Ryan's decision to impose a moratorium on the death penalty in his state -- pending a review of its fairness -- should prompt Bush to do the same.

Earlier this week, Glover and the other activists were in Austin, Texas, making their case for a reprieve on Bush's home turf.

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