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CNN Today

Jesse Jackson Urging Gov. Bush to Halt Execution

Aired June 20, 2000 - 2:34 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: Texas is set to execute a convicted killer Thursday. But three former jurors are expressing doubt about Gary Graham's guilt. Graham faces the death penalty for a 1981 killing that took place during a supermarket holdup. The jurors say they've been shown evidence by Graham's lawyer, evidence they didn't see at trial, that casts doubt on the conviction.

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson visited Graham in prison today. He's urging Governor George Bush to stop the execution.

Jesse Jackson joins us now by telephone to tell us about his meeting today with Mr. Graham -- Reverend.

JESSE JACKSON, PUSH/RAINBOW COALITION: We met for more than an hour today, Gary Graham declaring his innocence. All of the evidence points in that direction. Jurors who were involved in the trial are now recanting their votes and they did not have adequate information. The police examiners say the pistol that Mr. Graham did have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is not the gun that killed Mr. Lambert.

Mr. Graham very well is facing wrongful conviction, mistaken identity and incompetent legal counsel.

He was in jail at age 17. He is now 36. When he went in, his compassion was pregnant. His daughter of 19 has never been able to touch his hand. He's been locked away now for 19 years. He's faced six death dates for execution he's survived.

And we urge Governor Bush (UNINTELLIGIBLE) substantial reasonable doubt grant Gary Graham a new trial, grant him a new trial with competent counsel.

ALLEN: Mr. Jackson, the governor has said he can't do anything until the parole board meets and makes a recommendation.

JACKSON: The governor cannot wash his hands of responsibility to show leadership. It's very much like Pontius Pilate in the crucifixion of Jesus. He knew the thief and the robber were guilty. He was not certain about Jesus. He had reasonable doubt. His wife expressed reasonable doubt.

And since he did not want to face the political challenge of making a tough, principled decision, he asked the crowd. He checked with the polls, and the pollsters said, kill him. Pontius Pilate lived to regret not making a decision. Here's a case where a man's innocence is fairly substantiated. He must -- he must leadership -- lead by molding opinion, not by following opinion polls.

And people of substance, Republicans and Democrats, people of conscience ought to speak out because this is the last time that those who really care can express themselves and be heard.

ALLEN: Jesse Jackson, we thank you for joining us. Mr. Jackson among the people protesting the planned execution of Gary Graham on Thursday.

The death penalty nationwide is under new scrutiny, as you probably have heard, after DNA evidence proved several inmates were innocent. Opponents are using Bush's prominence and his state's large number of executions to focus attention on the issue.

The Republican presidential candidate vows to stand his ground against what he calls a "movement" to undermine capital punishment.

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