Erring on the side of deathA Times Editorial
March 22, 2005
To justify federal intervention in the private tragedy of the
Schiavo family, the White House has repeatedly extolled the
president's belief that he should "err on the side of life." That is
a contemptible hypocrisy.
On June 23, 2000, while still governor of Texas, George W. Bush
allowed the execution of Gary Graham, a man whose claim to innocence
was so strong that five members of his own, notoriously sanguinary
parole board had argued to spare Graham's life. So had four justices
of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Graham's murder conviction depended entirely on his
identification by a stranger who said she had seen him briefly
through a car windshield from more than 30 feet away. Two
eyewitnesses who had been closer to the shooting said later that
Graham wasn't the killer, but they had never been interviewed by his
court-appointed counsel and were not called to testify at his trial.
Graham was 17 when arrested, making him one of the last juvenile
offenders to be executed anywhere on this planet. The senior warden
of Huntsville prison at the time wrote later that it was the worst
execution he had commanded; that Graham "was extremely angry, and
struggled until he was fully strapped down."
In washing his hands of Graham's innocence, Bush rationalized
that Graham had committed other crimes. Indeed he had, and admitted
them. But they did not justify his execution, given the shaky facts
and the inherent unreliability of eyewitness identification. On that
occasion, if not others, the policy of George W. Bush was to err on
the side of death.[Last modified March 22,
on the side of death
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