Don't Let Them Execute Shaka Sankofa!

By: Quent Reese

If Texas Gov. George W. Bush gets his way, he'll help the state murder an innocent man on June 22. That's the day that Shaka Sankofa -- formerly known as Gary Graham -- is scheduled to die.

On May 1, the U.S. Supreme Court refused without any comment to hear Shaka's final appeal. Shaka was appealing the decision of a lower court which held that Clinton's 1996 Effective Death Penalty Act applies to his case -- despite the fact that Shaka began his appeals more than a decade before this law took effect. The 1996 law severely limits the number and scope of death row prisoners' appeals in federal courts.

For Shaka, this latest court decision means that none of the compelling evidence of his innocence will ever be heard in court. For activists around his case, it means that the fight to save his life is being pushed to a new level.

Shaka was convicted of a 1981 murder that took place in a Houston grocery store parking lot. No physical evidence links Shaka to the crime, and numerous alibi witnesses say Shaka was with them at the time. But the court-appointed attorney Shaka received put up virtually no defense. He conducted no independent investigation. He later tried to excuse his poor defense -- even saying that he thought Shaka was probably guilty anyway.

Now that the way has been cleared for Shaka's execution, he has been transported from the Terrel Unit in East Texas to "death watch" at the unit in Huntsville. Shaka, who has said that he'll go fighting all the way to the execution chamber, had to be gassed twice by guards just to remove him from his cell for transport.

Inspired by Shaka's fighting spirit, activists across the state are moving into action to keep Bush from executing another innocent man.