Shaka Sankofa

Shaka Sankofa's (AKA Gary Graham) life was taken in a state-sponsored murder on June 22nd, 2000. His was one of 23 executions in the first half of this year in Texas alone. You may have heard about his case, as it was/is championed by nationally known social justice activists (eg: Al Sharpton,. Jesse Jackson), and it was the inspiration for a few demonstrations outside the courthouse in Austin, Texas, which drew over 1000 protestors each. Sankofa always maintained his innocence, and he always had quite a convincing list of highly questionable pieces of evidence used against him, some of which were center stage in bringing about his conviction.

The alleged attack occurred May 1991 in a Safeway supermarket parking lot in Houston Texas. Bobby Lampart (the victim) was killed. It was a tragedy, one of many in the long list of acts of inexplicable violence that seem to seep out of the pores of contemporary America. Vindicating the death of Mr. Lampart by executing Sankofa, a man against whom the evidence was shaky and whom was potentially an innocent man, only compounds the tragedy. His execution only doubled the carnage by spilling the blood of Sankofa upon the hands of every American.

Click Here for a brief biography
of Shaka Sankofa.

The difficulty begins from the first moments of the crime. Bernadine Skillern, an eyewitness, could only identify Sankofa as a slim, average height, black male, nothing more. Later she positively identified Sankofa, but the fact remains that, only seconds after the attack, she was unable to recall any features save that he was average build, black, and male. The next issue, one that was repeated with Mumia Abu-Jamal, is that the Houston police department declined a powder test. This is a routine test where the alleged attacker's hands and clothes are tested for traces of gun powder and is one of the first duties in the police protocol list dealing with shootings. Additionally, the police firearms examiner testified that Sankofa's gun (a .22 caliber pistol, the same caliber gun that killed Bobby Lampart) could not be the same gun used in the attack against Lampart. Lastly, there were 6 other eye witnesses that testified to Sankofa's innocence.

But now he's gone. Forever.

The most compelling issue at play in the case against Sankofa was that justice seemed to take a back seat to the game being played out between pro/anti death penalty advocates and conservative/liberal celebrities in America. The language on both sides was in absolutes. Anti-death penalty web sites and activists repeatedly maintained that Sankofa (Graham) was innocent, end of story. Some even took things a step further proclaiming Sankofa a modern hero in the ranks of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

Sankofa was without a doubt an inspiring man who, despite the horrendous obstacles placed in his way, managed to turn his life around, find spirituality, and to help others realize what really mattered. But Sankofa's spirituality was unfortunately not what was on trial. Sadly, many pro-death penalty activists claimed blindly to know of Sankofa's guilt, never once questioning the shaky testimony of Bernadine Skillern.

Since his conviction in 1981, the only recourse was to attempt to sway public officials into considering a re-trial. Both conservatives and liberals strapped on their padding and took to the field, without a giving a moment's consideration to the fact that justice should be priority one. There is no way that all of liberal America knew beyond any doubt that Sankofa was innocent and, likewise, there is no way all of conservative America could be sure of guilt. If Sankofa's life was really of value, both parties would have assumed moderate roles until all doubt was removed, but the temptation to use Sankofa in their game was too great. Now Sankofa is dead leaving both sides with nothing to do but begin again their search for the next pawn in their game.

--MC Corporate Death

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