Three jurors in Texas who convicted Gary Graham urge new trial

June 21, 2000

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Three jurors who voted to convict Gary Graham of murder and give him the death penalty are now trying to help him get a new trial just two days before he is set to be executed, a lawyer for Graham said Tuesday.

The jurors said in signed affidavits they would have voted differently had they heard all available evidence in the 1981 trial, attorney Jack Zimmerman said.

The affidavits were sent to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles as Graham supporters tried to save him from the executioner. The case has attracted the support of anti-capital punishment groups and a host of Hollywood celebrities.

Graham, now 38, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday at a state prison in Huntsville, Texas, for shooting Bobby Lambert to death while robbing him outside a Houston supermarket in 1981.

Graham was convicted largely on the testimony of a single witness who picked him out of a police lineup. Other witnesses who cast doubt on his guilt were not asked to testify, Zimmerman told Reuters.

The three jurors based their change of opinion on statements from two witnesses who said Graham did not match the description of the man they saw and on evidence that the lone witness to point the finger at Graham was shown a flawed lineup, Zimmerman said.

"You got two guys who say was a shorter guy. Ain't no way in the world I would have done that (found him guilty knowing that)," one of the jurors, Bobby Pryor, told the Houston Chronicle.

Zimmerman said the jurors' affidavits could convince the Texas parole board to recommend that Texas Gov. George W. Bush grant a reprieve or conditional pardon to allow time for a new trial.

"The first thing they would ask (about the new evidence) is what difference would it have made. Well, here's a quarter of the jury saying they would have voted differently. That's pretty significant," Zimmerman said.

The 18-member parole board, appointed by Bush, who is also the Republicans' presumptive presidential nominee, will vote privately on the clemency petition Thursday. The board has recommended to commute a death sentence only once since Bush took office in 1995.

During that time, 134 people have been put to death in Texas, which leads the nation in executions.

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson visited Graham on Tuesday on death row in a prison in Livingston, Texas, 70 miles north of Houston. He said Graham had asked him to witness the execution and had also invited Bush, who Jackson urged to grant Graham a reprieve.

"If you (Bush) feel he must die, be a witness and see for yourself and feel good about the decision you made because it is your decision," Jackson said in a news conference.

Jackson said Vice President Al Gore, the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee, should speak out for Graham. Gore thus far has said only that he favors capital punishment.

"While Mr. Bush must act, Mr. Gore must not be silent," Jackson said.

Death Penalty Issues
Eye Witness Identification
Truth in Justice