the brutality, stop
the execution of Shaka Sankofa
"I am angry and I am shaken. I have never seen Shaka like
this. When he came into the visitors' room he was in soiled
and torn clothing. He was shaking and looking over his shoulder,"
said Ricky Jason.
is a friend and supporter of Texas death-row activist Shaka
Sankofa, formerly known as Gary Graham.
a May 12 news conference organized by the Shaka Sankofa Coalition
for Justice, both Jason and William Butler described their visit
with the African American prisoner. They urged journalists to
get in to the prison to interview him.
opponents also announced a series of actions to pressure Texas
Gov. George W. Bush to stop the legal lynching of Sankofa and
enact a moratorium on executions.
U.S. Supreme Court turned down Sankofa's final appeal this month.
Texas then set his execution date for June 22.
told Jason and Butler that on May 5 guards came to his cell
wearing gas masks. "He was gassed, forcibly removed from his
cell and put in a death-watch cell," Jason reported. "All of
his property was confiscatedincluding his typewriter,
his clothing, his radio, even his underwear. They had a big
stack of his outgoing mail that they told him would never be
"His face was swollen and his shirt was ripped," Jason said.
Houston Chronicle reporter Slatheia Bryant said she had been
denied access to Sankofa. Officials at the Terrell Unit told
her Sankofa was "booked up for the next media day."
confined nearby confirmed Sankofa's story.
was gassed twice, by two different chemical agents," one prisoner,
Muenda, told a visitor. "I know because the whole pod felt the
effects of the gas even though they were gassing Shaka inside
his cell, with the solid steel door closed. I watched out of
my food slot until I could no longer see because of the effects
of the gas."
Innocent on death row
he was arrested in 1981, Sankofa has steadfastly proclaimed
his innocence of the murder of Bobby Lambert outside a grocery
store. Sankofa was just 17 years old when he was arrested and
charged with capital murdera violation of many international
laws that no one under 18 should be sentenced to death.
case garnered national and international support in the early
1990s. That's when Sankofa finally received adequate legal representation.
uncovered what Houston police and Sankofa's original lawyer
never didthat ballistics evidence proved his gun was not
used in the murder.
also found that Lambert was a known drug dealer and gunrunner
and was set for trial in Oklahoma. Most important, six eyewitnesses
agreed that Sankofa was not the killer.
this day, no court has ever heard all this new information that
was uncovered a decade after Sankofa was sent to death row.
1993, Sankofa's lawyers tried to present the facts to a federal
court. They were told to finish the appeals in state court.
But by the time his state court appeals were denied, President
Bill Clinton had signed the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act, limiting prisoners' rights to federal appeals.
Sankofa's lawyers went back to federal court, a judge told them
that since they had already been there in 1993the courts
couldn't allow them to try again.
Mandy Welch said: "It seems ridiculous that they could turn
us away without looking at the evidence, but they did. Now that
the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to look at Gary's case, he
has no appeals left. There is only a clemency appeal to the
Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Bush."
presidential candidate Bush, responding to the growing national
opposition to the death penalty, has asserted that no innocent
person has ever been executed in Texas.
Shakur of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, a Sankofa
supporter, said: "You only have to look back a few months to
the executions of Odell Barnes and James Beathard to find two
innocent men. Bush is a liar! "
the year 2000 alone, Bush had killed a mentally ill man, a battered
woman, an innocent man, and a person who was a juvenile at the
time of his arrest. As of May 15, Bush had 128 executions under
his belt and 20 more scheduled for this year."
planned On May 19, Sankofa's supporters, including members of
the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, will attend the
regular meeting of the Texas Prison Board to demand an explanation
for the brutal treatment. If they are not allowed to speak during
the public session, the abolitionists will hold a news conference
and demonstration outside.
Robert Muhammad of Houston's Nation of Islam Mosque No. 45 plans
a May 22 news conference to announce that he will go on a hunger
strike for the 30 days preceding Sankofa's execution date. Other
activists also plan to participate in the fast.
May 31, there will be a mass march and demonstration in Houston
to demand a hearing of the new evidence in Sankofa's case. The
march will begin at the Criminal Justice Center, 1201 Franklin
In June, Pam Africa of International Concerned Family and Friends
of Mumia Abu-Jamal will visit Sankofa on death row and speak
at a public rally for him. Supporters plan a demonstration at
the State Capitol in Austin to confront Bush.
Readers can call the Terrell Unit warden to inquire about Shaka
Sankofa's health at (936) 967-8082.
letters of support to Sankofa at the following address:
#696, Terrell Unit, 12002 FM 350 South, Livingston,