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Huntsville, Texas Prison Spokesmen Hold News Conference on Gary Graham's Transfer to Execution Site

Aired June 22, 2000 - 12:04 p.m. ET


FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: At the state prison in Huntsville, Texas, officials are moving forward with preparations for that lethal injection. Graham is in a holding cell, just steps away from the death chamber.

CNN's Charles Zewe is outside the prison there in Huntsville -- Charles.

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Frank, Gary Graham is living up to his vow not to go quietly to his death here in the Texas death house. Yesterday, when he was removed from a death row cell at another prison unit not far away from here, he violently resisted that, had to be subdued.

Now we are going to take you to a news conference underway, or getting underway, by Glen Castlebury and Larry Fitzgerald, the prison spokesmen.

Let's hear what they have to say.

GLEN CASTLEBURY, SPOKESMAN, TEXAS DEPT. OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: You bring one in, where do we stop? So do not bring non-media people into this media compound. They want to talk to you, they can go out there in the outer world. An announcement from the parole board we told you yesterday was expected at noon today. Chairman Garrett has now advised us that that will not be ready until 1:30 p.m.

And we will have it here simultaneously with his release of it over in Austin. It will be a printed statement as to the board's action. And Chairman Garrett advises us that he is not commenting on it further over there in Austin. So there will be no comment on it further over here in Huntsville.

We're now going to recap about the last 12 hours or so from yesterday afternoon when we last talked to you. Larry -- and we'll take your questions. As you know the inmate was transferred here yesterday afternoon from the Livingston unit, from the Terrel Unit. He arrived here approximately 6:40 p.m. He did resist the efforts to be moved. And cell extraction team did do their routine use of force to move him into the van for the transport, and to remove him from the van here at Huntsville, and to secure him in his cell.

After he was secured in his cell here yesterday evening, he was offered something to eat, and he refused. Later in the evening, he was offered something to eat, and again he refused. But he did ask for coffee. I would describe his mood over there in the cell yesterday evening as quiet. He was not talking. He slept throughout the night. He was offered breakfast this morning. He refused that, but did ask for coffee.

Mr. Graham was told yesterday, prior to the move, that if he cooperated and did not resist the move either over there or over here, that today's visitations would go on routinely. But that if he resisted, the visitations could be curtailed. He resisted. As a result, today, this morning, he will be permitted visits with immediate family members and perhaps with one or two others. Now, I want to admonish you that the visitor lists are confidential. They are in all executions.

Therefore, if you can identify the visitors through whatever means, that's your business, not mine. This afternoon, he will be permitted visits from his spiritual adviser and from his lawyers. We can tell you his spiritual adviser is Reverend Mohammed (ph) -- is it Robert? Robert Mohammed. And his lawyer I cannot confirm. He has two lawyers of record, Richard Burr and Mr. Zimmerman. And I read in the "Chronicle" that Zimmerman said he was staying in Houston today. And I believe everything I read in the "Chronicle."

Larry, do you have something to add before you go to questions?


CASTLEBURY: We will now take your questions.

QUESTION: Has Gary still refused to make a last minute request?

FITZGERALD: Right, he has no last-minute request at this time. That has not changed.

QUESTION: When was the last time (OFF-MIKE)

FITZGERALD: He ate yesterday for breakfast is my understanding. He refused a meal at noon yesterday during his visitation at the Terrel unit, and as Mr. Castlebury said, he refused any food last night and this morning, drinking only coffee.


FITZGERALD: From what I see, looks like it's pretty adequate.


FITZGERALD: No, I think we've got everything pretty well covered on this.


FITZGERALD: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: What did it take to extract him from the cell? FITZGERALD: Anytime we move a death row inmate, doing transport, we shackle them by the wrist, by their ankles, and with an apparatus around their stomach, around their waist. We were attempting to put that apparatus on him yesterday, and as soon as we unshackled his hands to move them from the back to the front, that's when he started to struggle. The struggle was very short-lived. It probably was only a minute or so in duration. We were able to put the restraints on him. He was then carried to the van, the transport van, which was a short distance away. Then he came on to Huntsville. We had escort provided by the Department of Public Safety, and we had several of our vehicles in the procession as well.

QUESTION: Sir, did he have a stun belt on? Did he have a stun belt on or just the standard shackles?

FITZGERALD: No, sir. The standard shackles.



QUESTION: Are extractions usually videotaped?

FITZGERALD: Yes they are.

This was -- now, let me tell you, this was not an extraction either. What had happened, he was having his visitation, his normal visitation, which lasts up to 5:00. Our decision was made after that visitation was concluded at 5:00. As he was being escorted as he normally would back to his cell area, that's when we informed him that we were, indeed, going to take him directly to Huntsville. And he was informed at that time, if you do not act out, act up on the thing, you'll be allowed all your normal visitation. Of course, that did not happen. But we did not actually use an extraction team because he never really got into the cell.

QUESTION: What was the decision to move him last night or like yesterday evening?

FITZGERALD: It was for security reasons. Now, when I talked to people out here yesterday, he was still in Livingston. I had no knowledge of when the movement would take place. And let me also add that we never, ever, ever reveal times of movement of inmates. And the same applies to Mr. Graham as it would to any other inmate.

QUESTION: Larry, is it normal to have helicopters overhead?

FITZGERALD: This was not a normal procession, OK?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) has his visitation been curtailed today, or are you all going to punish him for resisting?

FITZGERALD: He'll be allowed some visitation. And that certainly is the warden's call and I'm not aware of that at this time.

QUESTION: Sir, what kind of security measures are being taken today around the prison -- what types of security measure? And will the Black Panthers be allowed to be armed in this area?

FITZGERALD: We will have two perimeter areas. People will -- well, short answer to that is anybody approaching this unit with weapons will be dealt with. They're not going to approach and get into, really, other people who're protesting, people who are doing peaceful protests. We certainly recognize everybody's right to protest and to assemble, but we also recognize that you can't, you know, come up with guns.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) witness list. Do you have it complete now?

FITZGERALD: It is complete but we're not releasing it. We'll release it this afternoon at some point.


QUESTION: What other security measures can you talk about at other prison units around the system today? Anything unusual today?

FITZGERALD: Not that I'm aware. I think that all of our attention is being focused primarily on the Huntsville unit because that's obviously where all the media attention is and all the protest attention is.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) hurt at all?

FITZGERALD: No, he was not. We had a medical person examine Mr. Graham shortly after he was restrained. And although the examination was rather brief, it was determined that he did not suffer any injuries.

QUESTION: Which law enforcement agencies are involved in helping with security?

FITZGERALD: I know that we have the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, Walker County Sheriff's Office, Huntsville Police Department, and some other agencies are here that I know of just off hand.

Any more questions?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) at all in other units with other prisoners that may or may not be related to this?

FITZGERALD: Not that I'm aware.

QUESTION: Larry, did you say you did pepper spray him?

FITZGERALD: No, we did not. Did not -- it was only -- we put the belt on him, we just used normal use of force. There was no chemical agents used.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) did it take to get him subdued?


QUESTION: Is that videotape you made available to the public?

FITZGERALD: Absolutely not.


FITZGERALD: That'll be determined by what happens out of Pardons and Paroles.



QUESTION: Did he say anything during the extraction process?


QUESTION: Did he say anything during the extraction process?

FITZGERALD: He did not, not that I heard. I was standing right next to him, I did not hear anything. And it is my understanding, too, I asked the Transportation officers coming over if he had any comments, did he say anything while he was in the van? They said he did not say a word.

Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) when you're going to do the afternoon thing?

CASTLEBURY: I think when we hand out the Board of Pardon and Parole thing at 1:30, then we'll establish what we're going to do later in the afternoon.

QUESTION: You will read that statement?

CASTLEBURY: Yes, we'll read it if you want us to.

QUESTION: And that'll happen at 1:30?

CASTLEBURY: Yes. And, yes, we'll have copies. And, please remember our travel lane to get down here to the other area -- I notice a lot of equipment over there, security equipment...

ZEWE: Glen Castlebury and Larry Fitzgerald wrapping up a news briefing here. Just to recap, they say that Gary Graham has been quiet in his cell last night and into today, refusing to eat except for taking coffee, refusing to eat anything. Here is a man who has gone through this five times before, ordered five last meals in previous runups to an execution. Not this time.

The news here is that he is living up to his word. Prison officials confirming now that he did indeed resist and had to be subdued when they went to move him from the Terrel Unit, which is where most of the death row inmates in Texas -- most of the male death row inmates in Texas are housed, to the holding cells just off the death chamber which is where I am at the Walls Unit near downtown Huntsville. Nobody was hurt in that, including Graham.

Graham now waiting for word from the state pardons board which will announce its decision within the next hour or so about whether they will recommend that he get a stay. Then it would be up to Governor George Bush on whether he goes along with that or not. Bush really powerless in this to do anything but what the pardon board recommends.

So, the countdown is under way. Gary Graham's execution now set still for 6:00 Central time unless the pardon board or the courts step in.

Charles Zewe, CNN, live, Huntsville, Texas -- Frank.

SESNO: Thanks, Charles.



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