AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Gary Graham who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Thursday, June 22nd.
Gary Graham was convicted and sentenced to death for the capital murder of Bobby Lambert during the course of attempting to rob him in a grocery store parking lot in Houston, Texas on May 13, 1981. This crime was the beginning of a seven day crime spree in which Graham committed numerous violent felony crimes.
On the evening of May 13, 1981, Bobby Lambert stopped at a Safeway store in Houston to buy groceries. As Lambert headed to his car in the well-lit parking lot of the grocery store, Graham approached him from behind and began touching Lambert's pants pockets looking for money. Graham then turned to face Lambert, grabbed him by the neck and held a gun to Lambert's head. Bernadine Skillern, who was sitting in her car in the store parking saw Graham and began honking her horn. Graham then turned, looked directly at Skillern, and then standing his with arms fully extended, Graham shot Lambert in the chest. Lambert fell against a car in the parking lot and slid to the ground.
As Graham ran away, Skillern followed him in her car with her headlights on, across the parking lot. Shortly after Skillern began following Graham, he stopped and looked directly at her. At that point, Skillern drove away.
Graham was arrested on May 20, 1981 when he was found naked and asleep in the apartment of Lisa Blackburn, a 57-year-old woman whom he had kidnapped, robbed, and raped prior to passing out in her bed.
Graham was tried and found guilty of the capital murder of Bobby Lambert by a jury in October of 1981.
The day after Graham murdered Bobby Lambert, he went on a violent six-day crime spree.
Graham then pointed the gun at Linda Jennings' chest and told her to get out of the car. Graham then drove away with Jennings' purse still in the car.
Graham then hit Jones in the mouth with the gun about five times. The gun fired and wounded Jones in the neck. Jones and Wolk jumped from the van and ran to the store. Graham then drove away in Jones' van.
Graham then pulled a paper away, revealing a shotgun which he pointed at Dedman's stomach from a distance of about three or four feet. Graham forced Dedman into his van and took his wallet, cash, watch, office keys, and car keys while threatening to "blow [Dedman] away." Graham threw Dedman's office keys to the back of the van and told him to stay on the floor of the van for ten minutes, or he would come back and blow his head off. Graham then drove away in Dedman's Cadillac.
The girl ran away screaming, and, when Carter turned around, he saw that Graham was wearing Carter's cowboy hat and carrying a shotgun in his pants. He started to back up, pulling his shotgun from his pants. When Graham jammed the shotgun in Carter's stomach, Carter backed up and told Graham that he had already taken it all. Graham and the other male then ran away as people and police arrived from the club.
After Nematolli refused, he got in the car with his friends. As he was changing his shirt in the back seat, he heard Graham demand his stuff. When Nematolli told Graham, who was almost inside the car, to get out of the car, Graham hit Nematolli in the head with a gun, cocked the gun, and placed it in Nematolli's mouth. Graham asked Nematolli for his watch, ring, and wallet, then told him to get out of the car. After Nematolli got out of the car, he saw a man in another car in the passenger seat pointing a shotgun at Rocky's car. Graham searched Nematolli for more money, while holding the gun in his ribs, and then told him to get back in the car. Graham then ordered Linda out of the car, touched her breasts, and took her wedding ring and tip money. He told her to get back in the car. Graham told Rocky to start the car, turn his face away, and back up the car.
While Doakes waited in the car for Gill, Graham and another male parked next to the car in which Doakes was waiting. Graham walked to the passenger side of the car, opened the door so that the inside light illuminated the car, pointed a pistol at Doakes' ribs, and told him to move over. Graham then got in the car with Doakes. The other male got in the car, on the other side, sandwiching Doakes between the two of them.
They drove about two blocks, and Graham, while still pointing a gun at Doakes, took Doakes' wallet. When Doakes asked them to just take the car and let him out, the other male told Doakes to shut up or they would kill him anyway. After driving a couple of blocks, they stopped the car and told Doakes to get out. After Doakes got out of the car, Graham moved over to the driver's seat and drove away in the car.
Graham demanded Sanford's wallet and asked Sanford how much money he had in the wallet. After Sanford answered forty-nine dollars, Graham threatened to kill Sanford if he had lied. After taking Sanford's ring, Graham told Sanford that he had killed six people already and that he would kill Sanford if he did something stupid. Graham rifled through Sanford's briefcase in the back seat and looked in Sanford's car trunk. Graham got back in the car and started it, cocking the gun and pointing it at Sanford's stomach. Graham then drove to a stairwell, ordered Sanford into the stairwell, and followed him into the stairwell where he searched Sanford's pockets and coat. Graham pointed the gun at Sanford's stomach and ordered him back in the car. He told Sanford to lie face down in the back seat and wait there for five minutes, or his "partner" would shoot him.
Blackburn drove Graham to Tidwell, where he then directed her to an apartment building parking lot. When the cab stopped, Graham opened the door, pulled out a gun, pointed the gun at Blackburn, and threatened to take her money.
Graham stole Blackburn's money and looked through her glove compartment. He then ordered her out of the car while he looked in the trunk of the cab. There he found Blackburn's .38 caliber gun which he held on Blackburn after putting his own gun in his belt.
Graham, who seemed upset that Blackburn was carrying only fifteen dollars, told Blackburn that he needed six hundred dollars. Graham then told Blackburn that he thought he was "going to make it" with her. When Blackburn said she was too old, Graham struck her and told her not to lie.
Graham and Blackburn got back in the car, and Graham, while holding a gun on Blackburn, drove to a vacant apartment. He entered the apartment by sticking his hand in a broken window by the door and opening the door. Inside the apartment, Graham turned on the lights, and told Blackburn to take off her clothes and get against the wall. After Blackburn removed her clothes, Graham touched her genitals and told her to sit down. He threatened to rape her. Blackburn testified that Graham then did all of the things that he said he was going to do. While Graham lay on top of Blackburn, he held the gun directly over her head. Graham raped Blackburn. When Blackburn screamed, Graham forced her to turn over and unsuccessfully attempted anal intercourse with her. Blackburn, who feared that Graham would kill her in the vacant apartment where no one would find her body, then informed Graham that she lived in a warm and comfortable apartment where she might find more money for him.
Graham agreed to go to Blackburn's apartment but told Blackburn that if anyone were at her apartment, he would kill them both.
After Graham and Blackburn arrived at her apartment, Graham searched through her closets and belongings for money. He told her not to move because he did not have anything to lose if he harmed her.
He did not plan on getting caught, but knew he would get in trouble if he did. Graham stole jewelry and anything he found of value, placing it on the landing at the top of the stairs. After about an hour and a half, Blackburn noticed a change in Graham's balance and movements. Graham told her that they were going to finish what they started and ordered her to undress. Blackburn asked Graham to undress first; Graham did and got in bed with the gun. Graham ordered Blackburn to undress. However, as Blackburn began to undress, she realized that Graham was falling asleep, so she waited for awhile then took the gun, his clothes, and the money he had taken from her. She thought about killing Graham. After Blackburn decided not to kill Graham, she left her apartment and locked Graham inside. She asked the apartment management to telephone the police.
Blackburn waited outside her door for the police who arrested the naked Graham after awakening him in Blackburn's bed.
At the time of his arrest, Graham's billfold contained an Exxon credit card with the name Richard B. Sanford on it.
Subsequent to the instant capital murder conviction, Graham pleaded guilty to and was sentenced to twenty-year concurrent sentences for ten different aggravated robberies committed May 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, and 20, 1981
COURT APPEALS TIMELINE
During his16 year appeals process, Graham has had numerous claims considered and rejected by state and federal appellate courts. Those claims include allegations of procedural error by the trial court, ineffective assistance of counsel, competence to be executed, cruel and unusual punishment, lack of due process, the racial and age composition of the grand jury, the constitutionality of Texas' death penalty system, and factual innocence. Graham has repeatedly put forth the names of new witnesses who either purport or provide an alibi, allege he was not the shooter or otherwise bring into question the effectiveness of his counsel. The courts have heard his arguments and determined that they are not meritorious.
In 1987, six years after Graham was tried and sentenced to death, he submitted four affidavits to the courts from close friends, neighbors and family members claiming for the first time that Graham was with them on the night of the murder. The trial court held a hearing in January 1988 at which Graham was allowed to present the testimony of these alibi witnesses, but he chose to present testimony from only two of them. A number of statements made by those witnesses were contradictory. After the hearing, the judge made written findings that the testimony of those two witnesses was not credible. Updated affidavits from those witnesses were presented to the trial court again in 1993, and again the judge found that the statements made in the affidavits were not credible. In both instances, the Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the findings made by the trial court that the affidavits and testimony of these witnesses was not credible.
In 1993, almost 12 years after the murder of Bobby Lambert and more than five years after the alibi witnesses' affidavits and testimony were ruled to be not credible, Graham presented the trial court with affidavits from other witnesses who were at the crime scene on the night of the murder and from the defense investigator at the time of the original trial. This time, the trial court ruled that the affidavits from some of the crime scene witnesses and the defense investigator were not credible or not reliable and that the affidavits from some other crime scene witnesses, who had not witnessed the actual shooting, including Ronald Hubbard, did not undermine the testimony given and identification made by Bernadine Skillern. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the findings made by the trial court with regard to the identification witnesses.
In 2000, more than nineteen years after the murder of Bobby Lambert, and more than seven years after the affidavits from crime scene witnesses were ruled to be not credible or not undermining of Skillern's testimony, Graham has submitted a clemency petition, with affidavits of two other crime scene witnesses alleging that it undermines the testimony of Skillern. Those affidavits are from Sherian Etuk and Ronald Hubbard. Neither of these crime scene witnesses even claim they saw the actual shooting. In 1993, state courts considered a similar affidavit from Hubbard and ruled that it did not undermine Skillern's testimony because he was not a witness to the shooting. The problem with his affidavit today, as well as that of Sherian Etuk, remains the same. Neither one was a witness to the shooting.
In addition is Sherian Etuk and Ronald Hubbard had testified during Graham's trial that the shooter was not Gary Graham, as they are now, the State could have introduced rebuttal evidence in the guilt or innocence phase of the trial regarding the other crimes Graham committed during his six day crime spree, instead of having to wait until the punishment phase.
INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL
Graham has raised numerous complaints alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. State and federal courts have found these claims lacking merit. In fact, during the 1988 hearing at which two of Graham's alibi witnesses testified, both of his trial attorneys also testified. In his written findings, the judge who conducted the hearing found that Graham told his attorneys that he had spent the evening with his girlfriend but could not provide them with a name, address or description of her, that Graham never provided his trial attorneys with the names of any potential alibi witnesses, and that no person had ever voluntarily presented themselves to his trial counsel as such. The judge also found that Graham's trial counsel had provided reasonably effective assistance in the investigation and preparation of his trial and that their actions were reasonable based upon the information supplied to them by Graham while they were representing him.
The following is a chronology of Graham's court appeals:
RELATED CIVIL MATTERS
On July 21, 1993, Graham filed a civil suit against the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles seeking an evidentiary hearing on a clemency application.
On August 9, 1993, a state trial court issued a temporary injunction regarding a pending execution date.
On August 13, 1993, the Third Court of Appeals upheld the injunction and, on August 16, 1993, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied leave for the State to file mandamus.
On November 9, 1993, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed itself and granted leave to file mandamus and, on April 20, 1994, ordered the Third Court of Appeals to withdraw its injunction.
In October 1994, the trial court denied Graham a permanent injunction and declaratory relief due to the availability of state habeas procedures to review his claims.
On January 10, 1996, the Third Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.
- 30 -