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Breaking News

Texas Executes Gary Graham

Aired June 22, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PERRI PELTZ, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to go back now to Huntsville, Texas to Larry Fitzgerald, who works with the prison and find out the very latest on what's happened with Gary Graham.

LARRY FITZGERALD, PRISON SPOKESMAN: Our first reporter will be Mike Graczyk of the Associated Press.

MIKE GRACZYK, EXECUTION WITNESS: We're going to have Lloyd Gite from Fox 26 come here also. We had a long, rambling and very angry statement from Mr. Graham, who said the conclusion, or near the conclusion, that he wanted to be known as Shaka Sankofa.

QUESTION: Louder, louder. Talk into the microphone. We can't hear you.

LLOYD GITE, EXECUTION WITNESS: Can you hear us? Can you hear us now? They can't hear us.

Get closer to the microphone.

Can you hear us now?

Good.

GRACZYK: I want to repeat that. We had a long, rambling and angry final statement from Mr. Graham, who included among his comments that wanted to be known as Shaka Sankofa. It was very obvious from the way he looked that he had put up a struggle. He was restrained with black velcro restraints and his rift. He had a very crumpled white prison shirt on, covered for the most part with a sheet, which is fairly unusual for executions, though we see here in Texas. He had a restraint across the top of his head that was designed to keep his head from moving during the course of his statements. It slipped off. I believe, although I did not see, some of my colleagues did, that he was handcuffed to the death chamber gurney.

GITE: I did see the handcuffs. I understand that it is not normal for a prisoner to have handcuffs on him. He was handcuffed. We were not able to see his hands. I did see some bruises on his upper arm. He also said when he first talking to us that he was innocent of the killing of Bobby Hanners. He said he did not in fact kill him, and he said that he, Gary Graham, is being murdered today. He said this was in fact alleging and he said to Bobby Hanners' family, I did not kill Bobby Lambert. He says that the officials here know truth, and that truth at some point will come out, but that he did not kill him.

GRACZYK: In the course of his statement, he also invoked the names of Nelson and Winnie Mandela. He repeatedly talked about marching on, black power. If you bear with me, I'll try to go through some of my notes here about the statement. Again, it was quite long. Those of you who've seen Mr. Graham know he talks very quickly.

GITE: He also talked about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. He said they stood up and died for what is just. He also said that there will be 100 more years of this kind of lynching if we do not do something and do something fast. He says this murder has to be avenged. We will go forward by any means necessary. And if you have talked to Gary like I had just a few days ago, he said that any means necessary also means weapons. So he reiterated any means necessary before he died.

GRACZYK: He said I die fighting for what I believed in. The truth will come out. He thanked his supporters. He expressed love to the Reverend Jackson, Al Sharpton, Bianca Jagger, and the Minister Robert Mohammed, who were in death chamber with us. He urged that they take his case to an international court. He said that he had been beaten here, that he would like them to expose the brutality that he endured, and he said you must continue to demand a moratorium on executions. He said -- he expressed love to his son and daughters, and he said -- he urged them to hold their heads up.

GITE: He also said you can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot stop revolution. He also said, as Mike has said, "Take this to international court." He also said that there are tapes out available of him being abused by the prison officials. He said that the people must get ahold of those tapes and make those tapes public to prove that this nation does not act in a civilized manner.

GRACZYK: He said that -- quote -- "I was chosen for this genocide." This is part of genocide side where black people or that -- let me start this over. This is part of the genocide that we as black people have endured in America.

GITE: He also said this is a Holocaust for black people in America. And Bianca Jagger started crying as he was talking. And the Reverend Jesse Jackson's eyes were very red. We were in the particular section with those people. It was a very emotional time. Rev. Jesse Jackson said a prayer and Rev. Al Sharpton also said a prayer, as well as Robert Mohammed, the spiritual adviser to Gary Graham. He said a prayer as well.

GRACZYK: He said, "This is nothing more simple than murder, state-sanctioned murder in America. They know I'm innocent, they won't acknowledge it.?

GITE: He said, "This is genocide in America." He also said, "This is what happens to black men." Now as the drug were going into his body, he looked over us, and he just sort of went silent. He died with one of his eyes open and one of them closed, and he was looking at the Reverend Jesse Jackson when in fact he did die. GRACZYK: Just before they administered the drugs, he said, "Keep marching black people. Black power." He said that twice, quite a lot of anger in his voice. They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me tonight.

GITE: And then the doctor came in and examined him and pronounced him dead. They then placed a white cotton towel over his face and we exited.

GRACZYK: As Lloyd said, there was little reaction to the drugs. I wrote down he had a slight groan, almost like an exhale, and one of his eyes was half open, the other eye was almost shut.

GITE: Questions? Or do we just...

QUESTION: What about defendant's family? What kind of reaction did the family have?

SALATHEIA BRYANT, EXECUTION WITNESS: Hi, I'm Salathia Bryant, reporter with "The Houston Chronicle."

We were in with the victim's family. At the front, there was Rick Sanford. Rick Sanford was a robbery victim of Mr. Graham's in 1981. In the middle was Bobby Hanners, who is the grandson of Bobby Lambert, and on the end was Justice for All president Diane Clemens (ph). Rick Sanford never took his eyes of Mr. Graham when he went into the room. And when we walked into the witness chamber, Mr. Graham turned his eyes to our side, and that's when he said "I'd like to say to the victim's family I did not kill Bobby Lambert." We timed the statement. The statement was about six minutes long as we timed it.

And a quote, "March on black people. All y'all all leaders march on. Push the moratorium for all black people. Push forward all y'all doing it right. They know I'm innocent. They got the facts to prove it. We will prevail. Keep marching. Black power. Keep marching black power."

And the last statement that I recorded before his death, "They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me tonight." And he went silent. And of course the doctor identified the time of death at 8:49.

And from what it appeared, Justice for All president Diane Clemens at one point during the execution, she kept her head down at one point, had tissue in her hand, and wiped slight tears from her eyes. She wasn't crying heavily. She just patted her eyes little bit. But as I said, Rick Sanford kept his eyes directly on Mr. Graham the whole entire time.

QUESTION: What about Bobby Hanners?

BRYANT: And so did Mr. Hanners. As I said, he stood in the front, and also kept looking at Mr. Graham's direction.

And as Mike and Lloyd had said before, when we arrived in the room, he had sort of like an Ace bandage, I guess. It was wrapped around his forehead and around the bed, but that slipped off in the process of his statement, because he was rather lengthy and he was also very breathy in his talking, very excited, I guess, and very breathy in his statements. He really at all times had a huge vein down the center of his forehead there. So he was really expressing himself in a very strong manner.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) time of death?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 8:49.

BRYANT: 8:49.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BRYANT: I'm sorry. And also in with the victims was Roe Wade. She is an appellate specialist in the Harris County -- Roe -- Roe Wilson. I'm sorry. Roe Wilson. It's R-O-E Wilson. Roe Wilson.

She is an appellate specialist in the Harris County district attorney's office.

FITZGERALD: In conclusion, I'd like to say that I do have a statement here from Bobby Hanners, who is Bobby Lambert's grandson. This was released just a short while ago.

It says: "My heart goes out to the Graham family as they begin the grieving process. I also pray that Gary Graham made his peace with God. But I truly feel that justice has been served."

Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FITZGERALD: Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) by force from the holding cell into (OFF- MIKE) execution (OFF-MIKE)?

FITZGERALD: I cannot hear you. I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Was he taken by force?

FITZGERALD: Yes, he was. True to his word he did resist. That resistance started at approximately 8:20 this evening. It took about 30 seconds.

It took about 30 seconds to remove him from the cell, and maybe an additional 60 second to actually strap him to the gurney.

QUESTION: Larry, can you read the statement again? I couldn't hear you.

FITZGERALD: He was taken from the cell at 8:20 approximately. It took about 60 seconds, or rather about 30 seconds to take him from the cell and about 60 seconds to actually strap him to the gurney. BRYANT: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) chemical agents.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FITZGERALD: I'll tell you. I have got some -- some copies of it. I'll pass it out to you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FITZGERALD: OK. Need sound. OK.

This is from Bobby Hanners. It says: "My heart goes out to the Graham family as they begin the grieving process. I also pray that Gary Graham has made peace with God. But I truly feel that justice has been served."

Thank you.

QUESTION: When are you all going to release his statement?

PELTZ: State-sanctioned murder, genocide: Those were the chilling words of convicted killer Gary Graham just moments before he was executed by lethal injection, said to happen at 8:45 this evening.

You have been listening to witnesses to the execution, very chilling words indeed, witnesses who have said that he showed obvious signs of struggle, that he was handcuffed, that he made a very long and rambling and very angry speech declaring his innocence, demanding that this case be taken to an international court, that we should not allow his case to die even though he was about to be executed.

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