Mercy At Last
Clemency, Governor Death & Gonzales
150 men and 2 women were executed during G.W. Bush's 6 year stint as Governor in Texas, so many Death Row was called a fast food line that served up Texicutions.
The Governor hid behind a Board of Pardons and Paroles who rarely met in person, faxed in votes to DENY, and rarely opened the car loads of court records sent to them, papers that often, had anyone read them, established innocence, rehabilitation, mitigating circumstances (like mental illness, mental retardation, child abuse), incompetent legal representation (attorneys who slept through jury selection), jailhouse snitches, and prosecutorial misconduct. Bush was in the habit of meeting for a half hour with a legal advisor, Alberto Gonzales from 1995-97, to be briefed before he checked the box at the bottom of a three page memo: Denied.
(White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales's Texas Execution Memos: How They Reflect on the President, And May Affect Gonzales's Supreme Court Chances By JOHN W. DEAN)
He granted clemency once, to a confessed serial murderer, who was documented to be out of state at the time of the murder in question.
Bush always said that he reviewed each case carefully, and that these people had full benefit of the court process. So much for "careful review". And the "full benefit of the courts" is irrelevant. Clemency is mercy at the discretion of the Executive Branch of government, based on evidence that never made it into court, for instance, which happens all the time in Texas where appeals courts accept as fact what the earlier courts presented. (The Texas Clemency Memos, by Alan Berlow)
Humane people around the world, and in Texas, were horrified by George Bush's disregard for truth, for the lives of these people executed without benefit of review for clemency, for their families. Susan Lee Campbell Solar, in her book No Justice: No Victory — The Death Penalty In Texas argued that Bush didn’t understand what Clemency was. He thought it meant full judicial review, when, in fact, it stands apart from the judicial branch allowing a new look at circumstances, facts , realities the courts miss.
But today, we have a new, more humane George Walker Bush who has discovered mercy, found it in his heart to commute a sentence so one of his former advisors doesn’t have to spend 30 months in jail. It would be too hard on him and his family, Bush says. The jury didn’t see everything, Bush says.
A mother's lament
(from No Justice: No Victory — The Death Penalty In Texas, by Susan Lee Campbell Solar) Gary Graham (Shaka Sankofa) was executed in 2000 of a murder which virtually everyone who actually reviewed the case, maintained Graham didn’t commit. In fact there were at least three witnesss who said Graham wasn’t the murderer. Their testimony never made it into court.
In a long interview with Elnora Graham on the day after Christmas, 2000 she drew this portrait of the family of a man condemned to die.
The minutes tick away
They told me to pop my trunk. I informed them that I didn't have no drugs or weapons, or nothing. I told them I had dirty clothes, including dirty underwear. Did they want me to take out my clothes? "No." They would take them out, so they pulled them out, dropped my dirty clothes and under things on the ground. They told me they would deny me the right to visit Gary because I had a poster of Gary, Stop the Execution of Shaka Sankofa, in my trunk. They told me they had the right to deny my visit, but they were going to let us go on in.
And when we went in, they locked the doors with me and her between them. I said to Dietra, "Do you have a ticket or something? They have gone and locked us up." She said, "No Grandma, I don't have one." So I wonder what is the problem. In about 3 to 5 minutes the Warden came and the prison guard. . . . He said, "I know you all going through a lot, and I know you all doing a lots of things. We don't know which way this thing is going, so what do you want to do with the remains?" [They were praying for a stay of execution.] He said, "Dietra, your dad left everything, all his property, to you." Dietra said, "Don't talk to me. Talk to my grandmother." He said, "We can't go anywhere until one of ya'll answer me." We let him repeat his question the third time. He said he was going to leave us to make up our mind and he would come back. I never been locked up before, I feel scared, I said, "Let Ross have it." So he said, "OK."
As we approach in there, my baby daughter was already in there, and [other family members]. . . My other daughter said she has to go down to the Warden's office. They have one of my grandbabies that Gary don't know. I say, "Don't go down there." . . . She said she don't know what he want with her down there [for]. She go anyway. . . . She come back crying. I said, "You went to the warden's office." She said, "Yes." I said, "You can't go back down there where your brother is cause he can't see us. You can't go down there if you go to the Warden's office. . . .We can comfort each other, but who's going to comfort him. He's the one on the other side."
He [Gary] said, "Mama, tomorrow I'm going to go over there [to the unit where executions take place] but when I make it back [depending on the stay of execution] I'm going to write a book." He said somebody wanted that book and they was going to give him some money and he wanted to tell me how to use that money for his kids. So I said, "OK." He said, "Dietra, go out to Mama's car and look at Moma's trunk to get some money [to take some pictures]." Then I left out to smoke a cigarette. I asked the people at the window, "If I go out to get some money so I can take a picture, can I come back in?" They said, "Yeah." When I got ready to come back in they said, "No."
So I stayed [locked]out there so long that he [Gary] thought I did go. So his daughter, she came out and told me, "Daddy said we could come back in." And I said, "Dietra, they told me we can't come back in." We went back and they said, "Visiting hours is over."
So they said you all have four hours to visit tomorrow. So both of us was trapped on the other side. We came on home. We went to my daughter's house. She went to look at TV to see if we got a stay. We see a white van and all these police cars and a helicopter. It says Gary Graham is being transported. They don't move anyone until they getting ready to kill him. But Gary got moved on the 21st instead of the 22nd.
When we got there [the next day] they denied my oldest access, said she wasn't on the visiting list. She said, "That's my brother, you're going to kill him, let me see him." They denied her the right. Then they turned to me and told me I could not visit. I said, "Why can't I visit. I was just in there yesterday. Why can't I go in?"
They said, "You are not dressed appropriate." I said, "Come on, give me some pants, give me anything and let me see my child because ya'll are maybe going to kill him in a few hours." They denied me. I had on some shorts. It was hot and I knew after I got to see him, I was going to be out there protesting. It was June and it was hot. The shorts come down to my knees, about as far as a skirt would come. They denied me.
Jesse Jackson come in and said, "You must be Mrs. Graham because you are awfully upset." I said, "I am." He said, "What seems to be the problem?" "They are denying me the right to be with my child." He said, "Don't worry. You're going." He went to talk to somebody. Well they brought me out some big old pants and told me to put them on. So I did. So when they searched me with the scanner my belt went off, so the lady say, "No. You have to strip." I took off the belt and dropped the pant, left me standing there with nothing but my panties and my top. Then she did my back and my bra-hook went off. She told me I had to take it off. I said, "No problem. You can't do nothin to me no worse than you're planning to do to me. You want me to get buck naked, I will."
There was a quarter in my pocket. She made me throw it away. Like I have money to throw away. My daughter had just paid $14 for a hat because it was so hot out there. They made her throw that away. It was real, real ugly down there on the 21st as well as the 22nd.
The last time I seen my baby alive
He [the guard] said, "You gonna have a visit like you've never had before. There ain't no one round there but him, so don't you be scared." I said, "I am not scared of my baby, what are you talking about?" Then when we get there we looked at his [Gary's] left side. He was holding it. Brenda and Dietra, they went. They was crying when they left. Jackson went. He [Gary] was standing there, in a dirty, dingy old jumper, a bunch of stuff thrown on the floor, very nasty looking back there.
He said, "Mama, how come you left me yesterday? They brought me over here." I said, "Yeah, I seen it on TV." He said, "What you didn't see on TV — eight of them took me down to Captain somebody's office and they broke me up pretty good." "Feel," he said, "They broke my rib." I said, "Did they carry you to the doctor?" He said, "No." I said, "Soon as we get this stay [of execution], they'll have to carry you to the doctor before they take you to back." I said, "Just stand and be strong baby, because we all need you." He said, "When I got over here about five more roughed me up." A tear rolled down his face. He saw the family out there. I said, "Don't worry. We going to win. You gotta be strong, cause we fighting like hell outside."
They said, "Visiting hour is over." Reverend Jackson said, "Then we'll pray." And they said, "Visiting hours is over, you have to leave." Our own Reverend came in and began to pray. They broke into the prayer and told us to leave.
They told me to come out one side and take off the [prison issue] pants. I did and a gang of policemen came out of this room and said, "What do we have her for?" I said, "You don't have me for nothin' I'm just trying to get off your property." They went to laughing, and they laughed, and that was the end.
* Photo by Susan Lee Campbell Solar, from No Justice: No Victory — The Death Penalty In Texas Text in photo: I am confident that every person who has been put to death in Texas under my watch has been guilty.
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