Gary Graham, 36, was executed by lethal injection on 22 June in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a 53-year-old man outside a supermarket.
On 13 May 1981, Bobby Lambert was coming out of a supermarket when an assailant reached into his pockets and shot him with a pistol as they scuffled. The robber got away with the change from a $100 bill.
Gary Graham, then 17, was arrested a week later (20 May) for the rape and robbery of a taxi driver. Lisa Blackburn said that Graham abducted her at a gas station, took her to a vacant place and repeatedly raped her. Then, they went to her house, where he took her valuables, shot up the walls, got undressed, and fell asleep. Blackburn then took Graham's gun and called police, who arrested him at the scene. Blackburn said that during the 5-hour ordeal, Graham kept saying to her "I've killed three people, and I'm going to kill you."
Police linked 22 crimes that occurred from 13 to 20 May to Graham. On 16 May, Gary Spiers was robbed and shot in the thigh with a sawed-off shotgun. From a hospital bed, he identified Graham as the shooter to police. Spiers said that Graham saw he was having car trouble and offered to give him a lift, and attempted to rob him after he got in Graham's car. Graham was also identified by Greg Jones as the man who shot him in the throat and left him for dead. In all, Graham was suspected in 19 aggravated robberies -- including the shootings of Spiers and Jones and the rape of Blackburn -- two auto thefts, and Lambert's murder. He pleaded guilty to ten of the robberies.
On the night of Bobby Lambert's murder, Bernadine Skillern was sitting in her car in the parking lot. She said that when a man put a pistol to Lambert's head, she blew her horn, and the gunman turned to look at her. There was a pop, Lambert dropped his bag of groceries, and the other man fled. She followed him in her car until her screaming children made her stop. Skillern said that she got a good look at the killer for about a minute and a half. After Graham was arrested, Skillern picked his mug shot and chose him from a police lineup. She identified him at trial and has continued to do so ever since.
Graham has admitted responsibility for the other crimes, but says he did not kill Bobby Lambert and that Skillern's identification of him is mistaken. Two other eyewitnesses, though they could not identify the killer because neither saw his face, nevertheless said it could not have been Graham, because he is 5'10", while the assailant they saw was between 5'3" and 5'6". Graham also faults his attorney, who did not call the other two eyewitnesses to testify and did not cross-examine Skillern.
Most capital murder cases are decided without any eyewitnesses. A number of criminal defense attorneys have stated that they prefer when there is an eyewitness because it gives them a chance to create reasonable doubt. Harris County defense attorney Robert Morrow said, "I see there's an eyewitness and I see an opportunity." Another local defense lawyer, Floyd Freed, said, "it certainly gives me more hope at trial" if the prosecutors present an eyewitness. Death penalty cases are usually decided on confessions, physical evidence, and/or circumstantial evidence. In Graham's case, there was no confession or physical evidence, and circumstantial evidence was weak, so the prosecutors had to base most of their case on Bernadine Skillern's testimony.
At his trial, Graham gave no alibi for his whereabouts on the night Bobby Lambert was killed. His lawyer said Graham told him only that he had spent the evening with a girlfriend whose name, description, and address he could not remember. On appeal, four witnesses came forward to offer alibis for Graham, but when two of them -- one was his wife -- were called to testify before a state district judge, they contradicted themselves and each other and were deemed not credible.
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