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Prison Spokesman Gives Press Conference Concerning Gary Graham's Upcoming Execution

Aired June 22, 2000 - 4:28 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: As we've been reporting, Gary Graham is to be executed tonight in Huntsville, Texas. The Huntsville prison spokesman, Larry Fitzgerald, has stepped on the podium there. Let's hear what he has to say.


LARRY FITZGERALD, PRISON SPOKESMAN: ... meeting with spiritual adviser, Robert Mohammed. Those meetings typically last 30 minutes. There will be no exception to that today.

I will tell you that -- who our witnesses will be for the execution tonight. The reporters for the pool reporters, it will be Mike Grotcic (ph), representing Associated Press, Michelle Lyons (ph), "The Huntsville Item," Wayne Swords (ph), representing United Press International, Salathia Bryant (ph) of "The Houston Chronicle," and Lloyd Geight (ph) out of Fox 26 out of Houston.

The personal witnesses, as probably most of you know at this time, but we'll go ahead and read it now, it's the official list, is the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr., listed as a friend, Bianca Jagger, listed as a friend -- OK -- Rev. Al Sharpton, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and the Minister Robert Mohammed, the spiritual adviser.

And we do have handouts which Mr. Kassenberry (ph) and Mrs. Espinoza are making available at this time.

There has been an addition to the victim's witnesses. We now have three victims witnesses. We have Bobby Lambert, who is the victim's grandson, Diane Clemens (ph), who is a family friend, and Rick Stanford, who also listed as a family friend.

In the material we are handing out to you is a chronology of the last several hours, I believe the last 36 hours of June 20, at 12:45 a.m., of what Mr. Graham has been doing, who he's been visiting with, that type of thing.

As you know, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied Gary Graham on all three questions. It is my understanding that his attorneys have now filed in state court, state district court, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court. We do not have any idea of the status of that at this time. I will tell you after the -- should the execution be carried out this evening, shortly after 6:00, when the media witnesses come out, we're going to bring the media witnesses out. They all serve as pool reporters. It'll be a short while after the event is over, and they will give you account of what they saw. We will give you a chronology of events that went on back there, as well as the final statement.

What will happen right now, should the execution be carried out, Gary Graham will be removed from his cell at 6:00. He will be taken to the execution chamber, which is a scant few feet away. He'll be strapped to the gurney. The IVs will be established. Once the IVs are established, the witnesses will be escorted into the execution viewing area. And the process will begin. As soon as it's completed, again our media witnesses will come out, and they'll address you, so it's important that you be in this area shortly after 6:00.

Any questions?

QUESTION: Larry, can you tell us about the last hour before 6:00? Is there anything that happens during that last hour?

FITZGERALD: During that last hour, he'll be visited by a prison chaplain; Jim Brazil is his name. There'll be two correctional officers back there with him at all times. Again, if he had accepted a meal or something, he'd be eating final meal about 4:00, but still, he has not accepted a final meal.

QUESTION: Should the execution occur?


Well, there is always the question there's something working in the courts, so we're waiting -- what we do, we will not take any action. We will not remove Graham from the cell until we have the all-clear from the attorney general's office that there is nothing left working in the courts, and also have the OK of the governor. But at 6:00, we would know by that time.

QUESTION: What was his reaction to the board?

FITZGERALD: I have not been back there to see him. I don't know.

QUESTION: If he had behaved himself yesterday, if he had not forced the guards yesterday, would his family have been allowed in this afternoon to see him?

FITZGERALD: I'm not certain who they were going to allow. I know that they did limit some of the people coming back here, but again, I'm not certain on that.

QUESTION: I mean, he did face some sort of punishment for resisting.

FITZGERALD: Well, he prosperously was advised before he was brought over here that there would be some repercussion if he misbehaved, and he did.


QUESTION: How do they handle moving an inmate if has vowed to fight...

FITZGERALD: All of our inmates are moved the very same way. They're shackled by their wrist, by their ankles, and by a belly- chain. As we shackled him up, that's when he chose to fight, and we had used force to put the changes on him, and we did that.

QUESTION: If he gives you a fight at 6:00, what's the process then?

FITZGERALD: We have a cell extraction team at the ready, and they will take him out of the cell at 6:00. They'll be ready for it.

He was always said from the outset that he would resist. I don't see him having a change of heart.

QUESTION: Can you describe the resistance he had today.

FITZGERALD: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Can you describe a little bit of the resistance he's put up today.

FITZGERALD: He has not resisted today on anything. He's been just, more or less, pacing back and forth in the holding area. He's been meeting with his family and friends. And that's been about it.

QUESTION: Did the governor's office respond to Graham's request that George Bush attend the execution?

FITZGERALD: Not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: ... and what's the process on that?

FITZGERALD: No, we will not. The only people who will come up here will be the witnesses. Any other people who witness the execution will have to do it outside the compound.

That is my understanding. I have not seen the gentlemen, but that is my understanding.

Thank you much.

QUESTION: Wait, Larry, One more question. OK, we see a lot of officers out here. Who's calling the shots should there be any problems?

FITZGERALD: The Texas Department of Public Safety is in control of security for the entire area around the perimeter here. And of course you have Huntsville Police and the Walker County Sheriff's Office also involved. But as the main person that's involved is the Texas Department of Public Safety.

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea when you were told the Klan members would be here, New Black Panthers? Can you give us an idea, numbers of these people that might be concerned?

FITZGERALD: I've been right here. I haven't walked out the perimeter, so I don't have any idea. I know we do know there's a presence here, but how much we don't know. I don't know.

QUESTION: Is there somebody here that can brief us on that.

FITZGERALD: I'll ask, but I'll doubt it.

QUESTION: How many security guards do you have out here?

FITZGERALD: I believe there's a little over 200 at this point, extra.


QUESTION: Are a lot these people working the cell blocks?

FITZGERALD: These are officers. The officers you see in gray are officers from all the surrounding areas in the Huntsville area, of which they're about eight units. There's about 30 officers from each one of the units around here.

QUESTION: I know it's on the handout, but for those viewers, can you read one more time the personal witnesses and the victim's witnesses list?

FITZGERALD: The personal witness list including Rev Jesse Jackson Sr. listed as friend, Bianca Jagger, listed as a friend, Rev. Al Sharpton, a friend, Sheila Jackson-Lee, a friend, and Minister Robert Mohammed, spiritual adviser. The victim's witnesses are Bobby Lambert, victim's grandson, Diane Clemens, a family friend, and Rick Sanford, a family friend.

Slow enough for you?

QUESTION: Thank you.

WATERS: That's Larry Fitzgerald. He's spokesman for the Huntsville Prison, where the pace quickens in anticipation of a date with death for Gary Graham in about two and a half hours, after receiving final word from the attorney general of Texas, and the Governor George W. Bush, pending any other delays by a state or the u.S. Supreme Court. The execution will be carried out. Last-minute briefing includes the witnesses that have been assigned, including three victim's witnesses. Sheila Jackson-Lee, listed as a friend, is the congresswoman from Texas. Al Sharpton of course we all know. Bianca Jagger, the human rights activist. And Jesse Jackson Sr. Of course Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said earlier he didn't want to go, but was asked by Gary Graham to attend so he said he will do that reluctantly. Five reporters also will attend. They will describe what they see after execution as pool reporters. And Robert Mohammed, who is the spiritual adviser, meeting now with Gary Graham, is the last witness on the list.

We will continue following the story. I'm Lou Waters at CNN Center. "SHOWBIZ TODAY" after a break.



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