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CNN Today

Death Penalty Opponents Protest at Bush Rallies

Aired June 20, 2000 - 1:06 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The death penalty issue is heating up for Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. Bush has presided over more than 130 executions, and he insists each one followed a fair trial and exhaustive appeals.

But a recent, highly-publicized newspaper investigation found that wasn't always the case. And with another death date looming, that of Gary Graham, a convicted killer who insists he's innocent, Bush is under fire like seldom before.

Here's CNN's Bill Hemmer.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, the issue of the death penalty followed him to California.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop the execution of Gary Graham! Don't kill an innocent man! Don't kill an innocent man!

HEMMER: Meanwhile, back in Austin, Texas, more than a dozen demonstrators were arrested outside the governor's mansion, even though Bush was not home.

The protests center on Gary Graham, scheduled to be executed Thursday for the fatal shooting of a Houston man, back in 1981, during a week-long crime spree.

Graham says he's innocent of the murder. Death penalty opponents say his trial was not fair.

BIANCA JAGGER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: Governor Bush has said that he has never convicted -- he has never -- that his state has never executed anyone that was innocent. In this case, the governor will be executing someone that is innocent.

HEMMER: Graham's conviction was largely based on one eyewitness. Critics argue Graham's lawyer failed to present complete ballistics evidence. Supporters also claim other witnesses gave a different description of the shooter. Their testimony was not presented at trial, but some legal experts still say the evidence in this case is clear. SOL WISENBERG, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The judge who tried the case, who's also been a defense attorney, and I believe a prosecutor, has said, in his entire career, it's without question the strongest eyewitness testimony he's ever seen.

HEMMER: Others contend the case calls into question Bush's claim of being a compassionate conservative.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, ACTIVIST: We believe in something called reasonable doubt before taking life or taking liberty. America's principles are on trial today. Governor Bush wants to wash his hands and step away from responsibility.

HEMMER: Bill Hemmer, CNN, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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