Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland


Shaka Sankofa murdered by the State of Texas
Seán Mac Mathúna

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Another innocent person murdered by the state of Texas: Not only did Shaka Sankofa not receive a fair trial, overwhelming evidence of his innocence was never presented to the jury

"The admirable thing about that young man, poor, marginalized and black, and perhaps for those reasons condemned to death without proof, is how during his interminable wait on death row he developed an impressive political and social conscience which was expressed at the moment of his execution. He didn't go like a lamb to the slaughter. He forcibly resisted the execution process right up until his death, as he had promised. He spoke like a prophet. He called for the fight to go on against what he called the Holocaust or Genocide that is being suffered by African-Americans. He demanded the vindication of his innocence. He died like a hero." Fidel Castro

Just days before the then Governor George Bush and the State of Texas executed Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham) in 2000, his case - along Pennsylvania death row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal - was publicised on the Round Table programme on Cuban TV. It featured a panel of lawyers and human rights activists from the United States who had been involved in the struggles to save the life of both Shaka Sankofa and Mumia Abu-Jamal. The programme started with Pam Africa, a leading member of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. She presented a thorough background of the events and the political climate which existed in that city at the time of Mumia's arrest for the alleged murder of a Philadelphia policeman 1982. Mumia's lawyer, Leonard Weinglass also appeared, explaining the legal dimensions of Mumia's case.

The New York human rights lawyer and law school professor, Lenox Hinds told Cuban TV audiences that the United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in the world. Out of two million people that are incarcerated in US jails , 50% of the prison population are either Black or Latino.

Other panelist included International Action Center spokespersons, Monica Moorehead of New York and Gloria LaRiva of San Francisco California. The actor Danny Glover also talked about his involvement in Shaka's defense over the years. Shown on Cuban TV was the analysis of the recent study by Columbia University professor James Leibman which stated that:

"America's capital punishment system is fraught with errors, documenting that more than 2/3 of the capital punishment convictions are so flawed that they are overturned on appeal."

Round Table concluded with a message from Mumia to the Cuban people in Spanish where he "Thanked them for their support". It was aired on the 47th Anniversary of the executing in the United States on June 19th 1953 of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Cubans commemorated the day by laying a wreath at the memorial to the Jewish couple. Prior to their departure, the Cuban delegation met with President Fidel Castro who sent a greeting to Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Castro says Shaka Sankofa was "murdered"

After Sankofa was executed, President Castro said that he he had been "murdered." He added:

"What is unquestionable is that he was sentenced to death for an alleged homicide when still a minor, without any consideration or compassion whatsoever, and without his guilt even having been proven."

Fidel went on to affirm:

"Everything done to him is in contradiction with universally accepted legal doctrines and principles."

After his comments on the irregularities committed with Sankofa, the Cuban President stated that "it is generally believed in the United States and throughout the world that he was sentenced to death and executed simply for being black," on top of "the monstrous deed of subjecting him for 19 years to the funeral chapel or what is more bluntly known as death row." Fidel emphasized that :

"Shaka Sankofa has shown the world the bitter fruit of a social system where differences between the richest and the poorest are infinite and where individualism, egotism, consumerism, a generalized use of firearms and violence reign as a philosophical foundation."

Shaka denies he is guilty of the crime of murdering Bobby Lambert

Out of respect for Shaka Sankofa and to give our readers a sense of his political viewpoint, Flame is publishing the complete text of the statement Shaka made as he was being executed - witnessed by Reverend Al Sharpton, Bianca Jagger and Reverend Jesse Jackson. Here is the full text of his last words:

"I would like to say that I did not kill Bobby Lambert. That I'm an innocent black man that is being murdered. This is a lynching that is happening in America tonight. There's overwhelming and compelling evidence of my defense that has never been heard in any court of America. What is happening here is an outrage for any civilized country, to anybody anywhere to look at what's happening here is wrong.

I thank all of the people that have rallied to my cause. They've been standing in support of me. Who have finished with me. I say to Mr. Lambert's family, I did not kill Bobby Lambert. You are pursuing the execution of an innocent man.

I want to express my sincere thanks to all of ya'll.

We must continue to move forward and do everything we can to outlaw legal lynching in America.

We must continue to stay strong all around the world, and people must come together to stop the systematic killing of poor and innocent black people.

We must continue to stand together in unity and to demand a moratorium on all executions. We must not let this murder/lynching be forgotten tonight, my brothers. We must take it to the nation. We must keep our faith. We must go forward.

We recognize that many leaders have died. Malcom X, Martin Luther King, and others who stood up for what was right. They stood up for what was just. We must, you must brothers, that's why I have called you today. You must carry on that condition. What is here is just a lynching that is taking place.

But they're going to keep on lynching us for the next 100 years, if you do not carry on that tradition, and that period of resistance.

We will prevail. We may lose this battle, but we will win the war. This death, this lynching will be avenged. It will be avenged, it must be avenged. The people must avenge this murder. So my brothers, all of ya'll stay strong, continue to move forward.

Know that I love all of you. I love the people, I love all of you for your blessing, strength, for your courage, for your dignity, the way you have come here tonight, and the way you have protested and kept this nation together. Keep moving forward, my brothers. Slavery couldn't stop us. The lynching couldn't stop us in the south. This lynching will not stop us tonight. We will go forward. Our destiny in this country is freedom and liberation. We will gain our freedom and liberation by any means necessary.

By any means necessary, we keep marching forward.

I love you, Mr. Jackson. Bianca, make sure that the state does not get my body. 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.

I died fighting for what I believe in. I died fighting for what was just and what was right. I did not kill Bobby Lambert, and the truth is going to come out. It will be brought out.

I want you to take this thing off into international court, Mr.Robert Mohammed and all ya'll. I want you, I want to get my family and take this down to international court and file a law suit. Get all the video tapes of all the beatings. They have beat me up in the back. They have beat me up at the unit over there. Get all the video tapes supporting that law suit. And make the public exposed to the genocide and this brutality, and let the world see what is really happening here behind closed doors. Let the world see the barbarity and injustice of what is really happening here. You must get those video tapes. You must make it exposed, this injustice, to the world. You must continue to demand a moratorium on all executions. We must move forward.

Minister Robert Mohammed, Ashanti Chimurenga, I love you for standing with me, my sister. You are a strong warrior Queen. You will continue to be string in everything that you do. Believe in yourself, you must hold your head up, in the spirit of Winnie Mandela, in the spirit of Nelson Mandela.

Ya'll must move forward. We will stop this lynching.

Reverend Al Sharpton, I love you, my brother.

Bianca Jagger, I love all of you.

Ya'll make sure that we continue to stand together.

Reverend Jesse Jackson, know that this murder, this lynching will not be forgotten. I love you, too, my brother.

This is genocide in America. This is what happens to black men when they stand up and protest for what is right and just. We refuse to compromise, we refuse to surrender the dignity for what we know is right. But we will move on, we have been strong in the past. We will continue to be strong as a people. You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot stop the revolution.

The revolution will go on. The people will carry the revolution on. You are the people that must carry that revolutionary on, in order to liberate our children from this genocide and for what is happening here in America tonight. What has happened for the last 100 or so years in America. This is the part of the genocide, this is part of the African (unintelligible [Holocaust ?]), that we as black people have endured in America. But we shall overcome, we will continue with this. We will continue, we will gain our freedom and liberation, by any means necessary. Stay strong. They cannot kill us. We will move forward.

To my sons, to my daughters, all of you. I love all of you. You have been wonderful. Keep your heads up. Keep moving forward. Keep united. Maintain the love and unity in the community. And know that victory is assured.

Victory for the people will be assured. We will gain our freedom and liberation in this country. We will gain it and we will do it by any means necessary. We will keep marching. March on black people. Keep your heads high. March on. All ya'll leaders. March on. Take your message to the people. Preach the moratorium for all executions. We're gonna stop, we are going to end the death penalty in this country. We are going to end it all across this world. Push forward people. And know that what ya'll are doing is right. What ya'll are doing is just.

This is nothing more than pure and simple murder. This is what is happening tonight in America. Nothing more than state sanctioned murder, state sanctioned lynching, right here in America, and right here tonight. This is what is happening my brothers. Nothing less. They know I'm innocent. They've got the facts to prove it. They know I'm innocent. But they cannot acknowledge my innocence, because to do so would be to publicly admit their guilt.

This is something these racist people will never do. We must remember brothers, this is what we're faced with. You must take this endeavor forward. You must stay strong. You must continue to hold your heads up, and to be there. And I love you, too, my brother. All of you who are standing with me in solidarity.

We will prevail . . .!

We will keep marching . . . keep marching black people !

. . . black power !

. . . keep marching black people !

. . . black power !

. . . keep marching black people !

. . . keep marching black people !

. . . they are killing me tonight . . .

. . . they are murdering me tonight . . .





Six eyewitnesses could not identify Gary Graham as the assailant.

Only one eyewitness, Bernadine Skillern, identified Gary as the man she saw in the grocery store parking lot.

Ms. Skillern saw the assailant mostly from the side; she saw him from the front only for a "split second," from 40 feet away in a dimly lit parking lot. She described the shooter as clean shaven with a close, compact, short Afro hairstyle. (Offense Report)

Police showed Ms. Skillern a photo lineup almost one week after the murder. All the photographed Black males had long Afros and some had facial hair. Ms. Skillern did not identify anyone.

Ms. Skillern was shown a second photo lineup including Gary's picture -- 13 days after the murder. Of 5 photographs in this lineup, only Gary was both clean-shaven and had a short, compact Afro hairstyle. The others either had facial hair or a longer Afro. Gary's photo was the only one with the date of arrest crossed out, drawing attention to that particular photograph. Ms. Skillern's identification was not absolutely positive. She said the photo of Gary looked like the suspect she saw, "except the complexion of the suspect she saw was darker and his face was thinner. She said she could not say that the man in the photo was the suspect from the photo." (Offense Report)

A live lineup was held the very next day -- 14 days after the murder.

Gary was the only constant in the photo lineups and the live lineup shown to Ms. Skillern. She identified Graham as the assailant. She then told an officer that she recognized him from the photo array shown her the previous night. (Offense Report)


Eyewitness identification is extremely susceptible to manipulation and suggestion.

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a nationally known expert in the perils of eyewitness identification, says:

"In these circumstances, there is an enhanced likelihood that a witness will identify the person in the lineup whom she has seen in the photo spread, whether or not the person is actually the one whose crime she witnessed. This occurs because the witness goes to the lineup, and the person whose photograph was seen before looks familiar. This familiarity may be mistakenly related back to the crime rather than back to the photograph where it may properly belong." (Report by Elizabeth Loftus)

Another eyewitness, Ron Hubbard, viewed the live lineup but could "not recognize any of the men on the stage as being the man he saw shoot Lambert." The jury never heard this. (Offense Report)

SIX other eyewitnesses did not identify Gary Graham:

Eyewitnesses Wilma Amos, Ron Hubbard, Sherian Etuk identified the killer as 3-4 inches shorter than Gary or described the killer as "medium" height. At least one eyewitness even said the killer was the same height as or shorter than the victim, Bobby Lambert who was 5'6" tall. Gary Graham is almost 5'10" tall.

Wilma Amos, who came closest to the killer as he was running away, says that the assailant was only a couple inches taller than she &endash; 5' 2 and 1/2 inches.

(1993 Amos Affidavit)

Another eyewitness, Sherian Etuk described the assailant as being less than 5'6" tall and having a slim build. Etuk is six feet tall and when she first saw the man outside the front of the store, she could see the top of his head. (1993 Etuk Interview)

Ron Hubbard, a Safeway store employee who saw the assailant hiding behind a pole in the parking lot and running away after the shooting is positive that the men he saw in the live lineup, including Gary Graham, did not fit the killer's physical description. Hubbard who is 6'1" tall was certain the killer was much shorter -- 5'5"-- and of slight build. (Offense Report)

Eyewitness Daniel Grady testified at trial, but was NOT asked to identify Gary Graham as the shooter. (Trial Testimony)

Eyewitness Leodis Wilkerson described the shooter as shorter than the victim Mr. Lambert who was 5'6" tall. Another boy who was with Wilkerson in the store parking lot saw the shooter at the house across the street from his cousin's home after the murder. (1993 Wilkerson Affidavit and Offense Report) Graham had no ties to this house. (Affidavits of Florence McDonald and Diane Perry)

Two other eyewitnesses who were in the grocery store parking lot came forward in 1993. Malcolm and Lorna Stephens gave affidavits stating that the shooter ran right in front of their car . Mr. Stephens stated that the shooter was a "young black guy… about 5'5"… compact, but not big[,]…[with] short hair, and [no] beard or anything like that." Ms. Stevens estimated the assailant's height as less than her husband who is 5'7" tall. Mr. Stephens saw the shooter again about a year after the Lambert murder. (1993 Affidavits of Malcolm and Lorna Stephens)


Police had three other potential suspects -- all with ties to the neighborhood around the Safeway grocery store. Gary Graham had no ties to the area.

Defense counsel Ron Mock failed to use this circumstantial evidence of Graham's innocence to establish reasonable doubt.

Gary Graham was arrested on May 20 and confessed to other armed robberies committed during the same time period as the Lambert murder. Gary adamantly denied committing the Lambert murder and has always maintained his innocence of that crime. Nevertheless, police focused on him as the chief suspect after his arrest, neglecting to resolve the following potential leads.

Just days after the murder, a witness came forward saying that the killer was a man who frequently visited the house across the street from this witness and her family and that her nephew had seen this man after witnessing the Lambert murder. (Offense Report and 1993 Affidavit of Wilkerson) Police stopped pursuing this lead and two others after Gary was arrested on May 20.

A truck driver told police he saw a car of young Black men acting suspicious in the vicinity of the Safeway grocery store just after the murder. The driver of this car was a young man whose brothers were taken into custody for another murder around the time of Mr. Lambert's murder. These young men used a .22 caliber gun, the same caliber used in the Lambert murder. A firearms examiner said it was "possible" the Lambert bullet matched the bullet from this other murder. (Offense Report) Police stopped pursuing this lead after Gary was arrested on May 20.

The Safeway manager told police that the composite looked like a young Black man he had had arrested for shoplifting just months before and who had recently been hanging around the Safeway again. This young man frequently wore a light colored sports jacket that matched the description of what Lambert's killer wore. (Offense Report) Police never followed up this lead after Gary was arrested .


Eyewitness Sherian Etuk gave police a written statement. (1993 Etuk Interview) This statement has never been turned over to defense attorneys.

Eyewitness Daniel Grady was sitting in his car in the store parking lot. The confrontation between the assailant and Mr. Lambert took place right next to Grady's car. Mr. Lambert fell onto the hood of Grady's car after he was shot. Mr. Grady testified at trial but was not asked to identify Mr. Graham as the assailant. (Trial Transcript) Mr. Grady has since died but his wife says he viewed a live lineup in 1981. (1993 Peggy Grady Interview) This is likely considering Grady's proximity to the crime, but police have never turned over any report of this lineup. IS THIS BECAUSE MR. GRADY FAILED TO IDENTIFY GARY GRAHAM AS THE ASSAILANT?

Eyewitness Ron Hubbard attended a live lineup with eyewitness Bernadine Skillern. After the lineup, he overheard police tell Skillern she had picked out the suspect they thought did the crime. At trial, police did not testify to this improper bolstering of Skillern. (1993 Affidavit of Hubbard)

In 1993, prosecutors did not turn over the police Offense Report or other information in their files to Graham's appellate attorneys until reminded by the state Attorney General that disclosure was mandatory. By the time the Offense Report was produced by the Harris County DA, the state trial court had already recommended that Graham's state habeas application be denied. It was too late to include any information from the Harris County files in Mr. Graham's petition.


Gary's lawyer believed he was guilty and insinuated to his own investigator that Gary was guilty. Because they assumed Gary was guilty from the start, neither the lawyer nor the investigator gave the case the same attention they would have for a client they believed was innocent. (1993 Affidavit of investigator Mervin West.)

Gary's lawyer failed to call five alibi witnesses who came forward to testify that Gary was with them at the time of the murder. The investigator never talked to any of these alibi witnesses to confirm or corroborate their stories. One of these alibi witnesses, Lorraine Johnson, went to Gary's trial, and told Defense Lawyer Ron Mock that she was there to testify. Mock barely spoke to her and never called her as a witness. While she waited in the courthouse hallway, Johnson watched Mock joke and socialize with the prosecutor and prosecution witnesses. Johnson passed a lie detector test confirming her version of having been with Graham at the time of the Lambert murder and the circumstances of making herself available at the courthouse to testify. (1993 Affidavit of Johnson)

Merv West talked to two of the other eyewitnesses who could not identify Graham as the killer. Defense counsel's files have no record of which two eyewitnesses were interviewed. Yet, neither the investigator nor defense counsel ever attempted to talk to any other eyewitnesses to use their testimony to undermine Skillern's identification at trial. (1993 Affidavit of investigator West.)

The defense lawyer's cross-examination of the lone eyewitness who identified Gary as the assailant was very weak and unproductive. As discussed above, Ron Mock never used any of the information about the suggestiveness of the photo and live lineup identification to cast doubt on Ms. Skillern's certainty. Defense counsel did nothing to point out to the jury why it was unlikely that Ms. Skillern could be as confident as she appeared to be about her identification. Mock did nothing to point out how her identification of Graham was suggested by the way police showed her the photo lineup. He did nothing to undermine her certainty by introducing evidence of the other eyewitnesses who could not positively identify Graham although they were closer to the scene than was Skillern and all had consistency about the assailant's height which cast doubt on Skillern's identification.

Gary was arrested with a .22 caliber pistol in his possession; this gun did not match the gun which shot Mr. Lambert. Gary's defense attorney never introduced the evidence of the police weapons analyst stating the weapon did not match the one used to kill Mr. Lambert.


But, one of defense counsel's most egregious and damaging errors went like this:

In front of the jury, Ron Mock identified his own client, the defendant Gary Graham, as the killer at least three times while cross-examining Bernadine Skillern.

Question by Defense Counsel: "...according to your testimony, [Mr. Lambert] would have been to the defendant's left at the time they first had an encounter?" (Tr. p. 360-361)

Question by Defense Counsel: "All right, so you had seen the defendant's right side when you [sic] first approached him?" (Tr. p. 375)

Question by Defense Counsel: "I think your testimony was that as you blew your horn, he turned his head toward you for a split second...?"

Witness Skillern: "Meaning Mr. Graham?"

Defense Counsel: "Yes, ma'am." (Tr. 378)

Defense Counsel Ron Mock:

Failed to investigate or interview potential eyewitnesses whose testimony exonerated Mr. Graham;

Failed to present to the jury circumstantial evidence of other suspects who were more likely Bobby Lambert's killer;

Failed to interview or present to the jury alibi witnesses who were with Graham at the time of the crime.

Failed to use any of this evidence to challenge Skillern, the lone eyewitness linking Graham to the crime.