On June 22, the state of Texas executed Gary Graham, almost certainly an innocent man. Given Texas' bloody death penalty record, Graham, who changed his name to Shaka Sankofa, was almost certainly not the only innocent victim ever executed. And he was definitely not the only Texas death row inmate who never got a fair trial.
Yet despite overwhelming evidence of Shaka's innocence, Texas Gov. George W. Bush insisted that justice was being done - and repeated that he was confident that no innocent person had been executed under his watch.
As The New Abolitionist went to press, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of new trials, hearings or sentencings in the cases of six death row prisoners.
Aaron Patterson and Derrick King, two members of the Death Row Ten - men tortured by the Chicago cops and sent to death row on the basis of false confessions - will get evidentiary hearings into their claims.
President Clinton's recent decision to delay the first federal execution in nearly 40 years is another indicator of the new mood surrounding the death penalty.
Juan Raul Garza, who was convicted seven years ago of three drug-related murders, was scheduled to die on August 5. But within weeks after Shaka Sankofa's execution, Clinton postponed Garza's execution date so that the Justice Department could update clemency procedures.
Thousands Protest Bush's Murder Of An Innocent Man
By: Bryan Hadley
Horrified that the state of Texas was executing an innocent man, thousands of people protested outside the state prison in Huntsville and elsewhere around the country as Gary Graham was strapped to a gurney and murdered on June 22.
Larry Marshall is the legal director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions in Chicago and a well-known death penalty lawyer. He and the Center took up Shaka's case. Marshall talked to the New Abolitionist.
You said you thought Gary's case was one of the most compelling cases of innocence in the U.S. Could you explain why?
North Carolina Native American Activist Framed For Murder
By: John Johnson
Since June 1, 1999, North Carolina Native American activist Eddie Hatcher has been held in jail on charges of capital murder for a May 1999 drive-by shooting. But the evidence against him is shaky at best.
In 1996, the Emmy Award-winning documentary Paradise Lost exposed the many injustices in the 1993 "Satanic ritual" murder trial that convicted the West Memphis Three - Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin. The documentary revealed the gross misconduct of police, prosecutors and judges in the case of three teenage boys who were wrongfully accused of a grisly triple murder of three 8-year-old boys.
Constant Pressure Saves The Life Of Eugene Colvin-El
By: Virginia Harabin
On June 8, abolitionists celebrated a tremendous victory after Maryland Governor Parris Glendening commuted the death sentence of Eugene Colvin-El to life without parole, admitting that he lacked "absolute certainty" as to Eugene's guilt. Eugene was facing execution the week of June 12, and the governor's decision was the result of continuous pressure built by activists in the Maryland area.
The Death Row Ten are prisoners on Illinois' death row who were beaten and tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and his detectives. In 1993, Burge was forced into taking early retirement and now spends his time fishing on his boat in Florida. But Burge and his cronies were never criminally charged.
In the summer of 1998, the Death Row Ten decided to form themselves into a group and asked the Campaign to End the Death Penalty to help them organize.
Judge Yohn Allows New Arguments By Mumia's Lawyers
By: Lee Wengraf
Since the spring, supporters of Pennsylvania death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal have been anticipating a date when he is to appear in court. Lawyers for Mumia - who was framed for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer and sent to death row - hope to convince Judge William Yohn to grant a new hearing into evidence of Mumia's innocence as well as violations of his constitutional rights.
Five months ago, the warden at San Quentin State Prison near San Francisco cut off contact visits for prisoners on death row after a minor incident between two inmates. The suspension of the 23-year-old program forced all 560 inmates to share eight phone booths, speaking to their loved ones through glass with no physical contact allowed.
In response, the Bay Area chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty organized with inmates' family members to win back the visits.
Activists in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty traveled from as far as Austin, Texas, to protest the "Death Candidate" - Texas Gov. George W. Bush - at the Unity 2000 demonstration in Philadelphia outside the Republican National Convention.
The Campaign's 150-strong contingent was one of the liveliest parts of the 10,000-person demonstration held July 31. "It was hard to ignore the shouts from the anti-death penalty group criticizing Governor George Bush for his support of the death penalty," reported ABCNews.com.
Tens of thousands of people are expected for the Redeem the Dream civil rights march on August 26 in Washington, D.C.
The rally against racism was called by Martin Luther King III and Rev. Al Sharpton to protest police brutality and racial profiling. Campaign members have been organizing all out to bring the issue of the death penalty front and center at the demonstration.
As we went to press, California anti-death penalty activists were busy protesting outside the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in mid-August. While pro-death penalty candidate Al Gore received his party's nomination inside, demonstrators outside called for an end to all executions.
At the main demonstration on August 14, abolition of the death penalty was a key demand. Campaign members also joined two other protests - one for Mumia Abu-Jamal and one to protest the abuses of the criminal injustice system.
I have been on death row since 1993. I was among the very first people that were handpicked and moved to this new prison for the Row. The dreaded "supermax segregation." Which is only solitary confinement 23 hours a day.
The isolation has had devastating effects on many. After all, this place was designed to "break the will and spirit of the most hardened people," according to one official. And it has worked, it has broken men.
I would like to open this letter to you honestly. I strongly feel that the best way to get to know someone is by telling them the truth about yourself and your life experiences.
I am on Texas death row and have been fighting this system for over 12 years on appeal and continue to do so. I was born and raised in the Windy City and completed my grammar school and high school years up there. My father moved to Dallas to get a better job. I have never really been fond of this state after learning about its history - which was that it was the last state to abolish slavery.
I am 23, and I have a death sentence. I'm serving my time in Raleigh, North Carolina, at Central Prison.
The other day, I was giving a lot of my junk mail away, and I came across one of your pamphlets. I can't believe I overlooked it. I fully agree with everything you are doing and are going to do. I love the fact that people are fighting for death row inmates. That gives us something to look forward to.
I am writing concerning the Effective Death Penalty Act. I am saddened to say that the U.S. Supreme Court has handed all death row inmates another severe blow - by "upholding" the Effective Death Penalty Act.
We are all touched by this latest ruling and understand that these death penalty states are going to misuse it and take full advantage of it in their continued thirst for blood.