Texas Board Won't Halt Execution


Thursday, June 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The state board of pardons refused Thursday to stop the scheduled execution of condemned inmate Gary Graham, whose case focused national attention on the death penalty.

The fate of Graham had rested with the 18-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. It which could have recommended that Gov. George W. Bush issue a 120-day reprieve, a commutation or a pardon. Without the recommendation, Bush can do nothing under state law.

The execution was scheduled for Thursday evening.

His execution had drawn exceptional scrutiny, largely because of Bush's presidential bid, the national re-examination of capital punishment, and questions about the strength of the case against Graham, convicted of killing a man in Houston in 1981.

The board voted 14-3 against the 120-day reprieve, 12-5 against commutation to a lesser sentence, and 17-0 against a conditional pardon. One member is on administrative leave and did not vote.

``I can say, unequivocally, that the board's decision not to recommend clemency was reached after a complete and unbiased review of the petition and evidence submitted,'' Gerald Garrett, the board chairman, said.

Immediately after the vote was announced, a group of protesters began chanting: ``Murderers, murderers.''

Graham was moved Wednesday evening from death row, at a prison about 45 miles to the east, to the prison in downtown Huntsville where executions are carried out.

Graham, 36, had promised to ``fight like hell'' on the trip to the death chamber.

``As we went to cuff him at the wrist and put shackles to his ankles and waist, he resisted,'' Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said. Several officers had to hold him down to apply the restraints.

Once at Huntsville, ``he slept through the night, he refused supper, refused breakfast but took some coffee today,'' prison spokesman Glen Castlebury said Thursday.

There's no question Graham was a street punk responsible for a crime spree 19 years ago. But he insists his weeklong rampage of robbery, rape and theft did not include the fatal shooting of an Arizona man outside a Houston supermarket.

The governor appoints the parole board, but is barred by law from halting the execution without a majority vote from the panel. The governor does have the power to grant a one-time 30-day reprieve in death penalty cases, but Graham already received one in 1993 from Bush's predecessor, Democrat Ann Richards.

``I'll treat this case no differently than any other case that has come across my desk,'' Bush told the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Houston late Wednesday. ``I'll ask two questions: Innocence or guilt, and whether this person has had full access to the courts of law.''

Texas has executed 22 inmates this year and 134 during Bush's 5 1/2 years in office. The state has put more people to death in the last two decades than any other state.

Two years ago, Bush told the parole board to review the case of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas because of questions about the slaying for which Lucas was about to die. Lucas' death sentence eventually was commuted to life. And earlier this month, Bush authorized a reprieve for inmate Ricky McGinn pending DNA tests.

The governor appoints the parole board, but is barred by law from halting the execution without a majority vote from the panel. The governor does have the power to grant a one-time 30-day reprieve in death penalty cases, but Graham already received one in 1993 from Bush's predecessor, Democrat Ann Richards.

``I'll treat this case no differently than any other case that has come across my desk,'' Bush told the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Houston late Wednesday. ``I'll ask two questions: Innocence or guilt, and whether this person has had full access to the courts of law.''

Texas has executed 22 inmates this year and 134 during Bush's 5 1/2 years in office. The state has put more people to death in the last two decades than any other state.

Two years ago, Bush told the parole board to review the case of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas because of questions about the slaying for which Lucas was about to die. Lucas' death sentence eventually was commuted to life. And earlier this month, Bush authorized a reprieve for inmate Ricky McGinn pending DNA tests.