New York Times Editorial
June 22, 2000

Decision Time on Gary Graham

We seldom comment two days in a row on the same subject, but the case of Gary Graham, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. today in Texas, merits concentrated attention. It has demonstrated to the nation the serious deficiencies in a capital punishment system that Gov. George W. Bush defended again yesterday as "fair and just." Mr. Graham's situation has also exposed the timidity of both Governor Bush and his Democratic presidential opponent, Al Gore, in addressing the risks of wrongful execution of inmates who have been deprived of fair trials.

All eyes are on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, the tiny state agency whose members are scheduled to vote by phone or fax by noon today on whether to approve Mr. Graham's application for a full or conditional pardon, a 120-day reprieve to permit a hearing, or a commutation of the sentence.

The board has now received sound guidance from Rodney Ellis, the president pro tem of the Texas Senate and the state's third-ranking official. Noting the "serious concerns" that have been raised about Mr. Graham's conviction for murder based on the testimony of a single witness, and the contrary testimony of other witnesses, he urged the board to delay the execution pending a hearing "to consider all of the evidence" before making a recommendation to the governor.

It is not asking too much to insist on a fair hearing, especially when a life is at risk. Perhaps at the 11th hour Governor Bush can demonstrate the leadership that has been missing so far in this case.

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