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Make sure that we get my name as Shaka Sankofa. My name is not Gary Graham. Make sure that it is properly presented on my grave.
--Shaka Sankofa before he was executed June 22, 2000

Shaka Sankofa

Who was Shaka Sankofa and why did America kill him?

"Don't tell me about a criminal justice system, 'cause there ain't no justice in it - its just a criminal system"
-- Mumia Abu Jamal

Shaka Sankofa

On June 22nd, at 8:49 P.M the Texas state government in coordination with the federal officials, carried out another of its infamous "Texacutions". Gary Graham who changed his name to Shaka Sankofa (after the famous African leader Shaka Zulu), was the 135th person to be executed under presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush Jr. Shaka was handcuffed to a gurney and forced an execution that he resisted on the growing norm for youth within the American urban center. Born a poor child he grew up with a mother suffering from mental illness and a father who was a debilitated alcoholic. Without any proper direction or control he dropped out of school without the knowledge to fully read or write and turned to crime in order to support himself. He was a petty thief and at times violent as petty thieves often need to be if they want to remain alive. In 1981, Shaka was charged with the murder of a man named Bobby Lambert, a known drug runner and a snitch aiding an investigation into other drug runners in the Texas area. Bobby Lambert was murdered outside a supermarket with a number of witnesses and $6,000 on his person.

Shaka had been arrested for a crime spree that included some robberies and allegations of rape, although the rape has never been proven. While in jail he was arraigned for the murder of Bobby Lambert and identified by one eye witness, keep in mind there were 6 other eye witnesses that claimed Shaka was not the gunman and described a man physically different to Shaka, and 4 people passed polygraph tests claiming Shaka was with them at the time of the murder. The one eye witness that claims to have seen Shaka kill Bobby Lambert was within a car at night and rumored to be as much as 40 feet away.

This lone woman's testimony is the only evidence that the state of Texas had to convict this 17 year old boy. While on trial the 17 year old illiterate, left the trial to his lawyer, who handled his case in an incompetent fashion, never interviewing the 6 eyewitnesses that testified on police reports

As a result, Shaka as a 17 year old boy was sentenced to death amidst serious doubt that he murdered Bobby Lambert and with the proof of a Salem witch trial. It is a violation of International Law for a country to execute someone for a crime they did as a minor...but International Law never stopped America before! So Shaka as a young man was put on Death Row, a horrible place if there ever was any, wrought with physical and mental abuse by prison officials.

He earned his G.E.D which is a high school equivalency test. Shaka learned how to read from the texts of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Huey P. Newton, he later became a political leader and spokesman fighting for prison reform while seeking his own freedom. The justice system, criminal corrections system or as I'd put it the Unjust, Criminal System fought to speed up his execution and would not review the new found evidence proving he was innocent. Every time they went before a court the door was slammed in Shaka's face on technicalities, as his fight for freedom gained attention, Bush endorsed a misinformation campaign claiming he was a rapist/murder who had his case reviewed some 30 odd times. THESE ARE LIES! And dare I say it, If 30 courts found this man guilty without proof then those 30 judges should be brought to trial! Not revered as credible people!

Bush is known as the Governor who has killed more people through state sanctioned death than any other governor in history. Due to his running for presidential office his human rights abuse has been brought to light with his actions on the death penalty issue. On June 22nd a parole board that is made up of Bush supporters and his campaign contributors, that communicates via email and fax, said the execution will happen as planned. There was a last minute plea to the Supreme Court who refused to listen to the case and then at 8.49 PM central time Shaka Sankofa was murdered.

Shaka had told the world that he would refuse to go peacefully. He proclaimed his innocence from the age of 17 until the death bed. He had admitted throughout the years about his robberies and had written letters as a man to the victims of his robberies apologizing for the actions of a boy. When an execution date is set the damned man or woman on Death Row is moved to what they call Phase 2, a section where inmates wait to die. It's often a smaller cell and the restrictions are more severe. Shaka had told the world he would not go along peacefully and he meant it, the guards had beaten him severely to get him to Phase 2 they later beat him to get him onto the gurney.

A man named Ricky Jason had gone to visit Shaka while on Phase 2 and had said that while in the bathroom at the prison he overheard two guards laughing about how Gary had no more legal appeals and they said "Now we can execute that nigger". Upon arriving at the prison Ricky met Gary Graham (also known as Shaka Sankofa) and gave this report:

"Gary was covered in filth with his shirt ripped, looking as though he had been wallowing on the ground. He had a huge knot over his eyebrow and was shaking like a leaf, stuttering, and asking for food. Gary wanted to know how Ricky got in, that they had put him on restriction so that only a lawyer, minister or media person could see him. All regular visits have been stopped. Ricky told Gary to just hurry up and tell him what had happened in case the guards came in and forced him to leave.

Gary told Ricky that the day the execution date was set, guards came to his cell with their heads covered with hoods to conceal their identity. They said, "Let's go, Graham" and Gary said, "I'm not going anywhere, I'm innocent, I didn't do nothing." Guards told him he had to be moved to the next phase and tear gassed him twice, beat and dragged him to the other room, where Gary passed out. The guards took everything from Gary, his radio, his typewriter, even his underwear.

On June 22nd Gary refused to order his last meal and had asked that Jesse Jackson, a member of Amnesty International. and Reverend Al Sharpton along with George W. Bush Jr. be his witnesses. They reported that when he came out he gave a final statement where he asked his supporters to push on regardless of his condition and kept telling the people "They are killing an innocent man tonight". He looked beaten and bruised, which indicates the force that had to be applied to make him get in the gurney.

Reports are that it took 5 men to get him held down where he was handcuffed to the gurney so he could not resist. He died in the middle of his statement as the lethal injection killed him, making him the 135th person to be executed by George W. Bush Jr. Not surprisingly, Bush never showed. The world was watching, as all the major news programs were live outside along hundreds of supporters for Shaka and a few supporters of Bush (who were mostly all members of the Ku Klux Klan). George W. Bush Jr. made a public statement where he said the he felt justice was being done.


Steven Truscott

Steven Truscott: was found guilty by a jury based on circumstantial evidence and sentenced to death at age 14.

It doesn't look good for Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham). A death warrant has been signed and he faces execution in Texas on June 22. The odds against him beating the lethal injection are monumental in a state where 131 people alone have been executed under Gov. George Bush's watch, and more than 400 are waiting, on death row.

But the odds against Sankofa, his adopted name indicative of a political consciousness nurtured over 19 years of incarceration, have never been good. A high school dropout with a mother troubled by mental illness, Sankofa was charged with killing a white man during an attempted robbery in 1981. There was a rash of crimes that followed this incident, and Sankofa was arrested and pleaded guilty to 10 cases of aggravated assault, including a rape charge that was later dropped.

His next stroke of bad luck occurred when attorney Ronald Mock was appointed by a judge to represent him, since Harris County has no public defender system. But represent is hardly the word, if we can believe a recent story in The New York Times in which Mock is portrayed as absolutely incompetent. Mock practically boasts that he has more clients sentenced to death than any lawyer in the country. Is there any validity at all to the article?

"All of it's true," said Jack Zimmermann, who along with Dick Burr has taken on Sankofa's case, filing appeal after appeal before the state's pardons and parole board. Without saying it, Zimmermann agreed that the lawyer had "Mocked" things up so much that it has been virtually impossible to get any relief.

"With each appeal we have been told that the questions we raise should have been raised during his trial," Zimmermann explained. "We are in a catch-22. And they seem to be reluctant to issue the reprieve we need, to get a new trial." .

“killer was under 5'5"; Sankofa is 5'10”-- witnesses

Sankofa's request for a new trial is similar to the demand supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal have been making for almost the same amount of time. Having his trial botched by an inept lawyer, a single eyewitness and a forensic report that seems incredible, Sankofa's plight has even more in common with Abu-Jamal's. The two death row inmates are bound also by the fact that neither were able to present key eyewitnesses prepared to vouch for the men's innocence.

Two eyewitnesses, who were working at the Safeway market when the murder occurred, insist that Sankofa was not the killer. Both witnesses said the killer was under 5'5"; Sankofa is 5'10". As in Abu-Jamal's case, the prosecution's forensic evidence does not connect Sankofa to the crime.

According to ballistics reports, the .22-caliber gun Sankofa possessed when he was arrested could have been the murder weapon. It was mostly on this uncontested fact and the unshakable testimony of eyewitness Bernadine Skillern that Sankofa was convicted. But Mock did not challenge her or cross-examine on the grounds of possible mistaken identity, Zimmermann said. He stated firmly: "Mr. Mock put up no defense.

"Yes, the situation for Shaka is grave, but we have not lost hope," Zimmermann asserted.

He noted that there has been increased media attention to the case, including all the major news networks. "Yesterday, from nine in the morning until late in the evening, we were fielding interviews and running from one television show to another. We are building momentum now, and it may not be too little and too late."

While the whole race for life depends on a stay from the governor, who has to be nudged by the board of pardons and parole, Sankofa supporters are optimistic with the news that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has joined the cry for a new trial.

Zimmermann said the appeal team is gladdened to hear that a report on the death penalty by James Leibman, a professor of law at Columbia University, finds that two out of three convictions were overturned on appeal, mostly because of serious errors by incompetent defense lawyers or overzealous cops who withheld evidence.

"This news should help us because I have never seen a case like this with such a compelling and stark set of facts pointing to a man's innocence," zimmermann said.