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DEATH PENALTY OPPONENT HONORED

(PRWEB) June 23, 2000

June 21, 2000

PRESS RELEASE

FOR RELEASE JUNE 22, 2000

Contact:

Richard Frankoff

713.520.8040 – office

713.726.0083 – home

Email: frankoff@orbitworld.com

DEATH PENALTY OPPONENT HONORED

Local Lawyers Honor National Advocate as Graham Awaits Execution But Ironic Coincidence Of Date Casts Shadow On Evening

HOUSTON — Tonight the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association is holding its annual banquet where Steven Bright, Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, will be the keynote speaker. HCCLA is honoring Bright for his work on behalf of prisoner rights. Bright, a longtime opponent of the death penalty will direct much of his keynote speech toward the topic.

Ironically, condemned killer Gary Graham’s scheduled execution will take place as the group is arriving for their annual gathering. “This is a bitter irony,” says Danny Easterling, outgoing president of the lawyers’ group. “The timbre of the evening is made a little darker by the coincidence of the date. It’s a sad day for justice.”

Bright and others protesting Graham’s execution contend Graham was not given a fair trial and witnesses who could still prove Graham’s innocence should be given an opportunity to testify in court. Citing several recent studies, Bright and HCCLA agree that the system is flawed and fundamentally unfair to people accused of capital crimes.

“Our system has big problems. In our haste to punish, we are overlooking the rights of the accused,” says Richard Frankoff, president-elect of the group. “While our membership has varying views on the death penalty itself, we all agree the system is flawed and needs to be examined.”

Last week, HCCLA called for Governor George W. Bush to implement an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Texas. In their June 16 statement, HCCLA called upon Bush to follow the “brave and compassionate lead” of Republican governors in three other states that have already implemented a moratorium. HCCLA issued its statement on behalf of the group’s membership, which includes more than 400 criminal lawyers throughout Texas.

Graham was convicted of the 1981 shooting murder of Bobby Grant Lambert outside a Safeway food store in Houston. Supporters of Graham say that the courts ignored potentially exculpatory witness testimony. Graham opponents retort that all evidence has been considered and no basis for a new trial exists.

HCCLA points to the Roy Criner case as yet another example of a system gone afoul. Houston Attorney Mike Charleton, being honored as Attorney of the Year by HCCLA at the same dinner, argued the Roy Criner case before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Criner was convicted of the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. Charleton successfully introduced DNA evidence tested at two separate facilities that concluded Criner could not be the donor of evidence found at the crime scene. The Court of Criminal Appeals however, denied Criner a new trial. The final vote was 5-4 with Judge Sharon Keller issuing the majority opinion. Charleton also argued an appeal for Gary Graham before the same court.

The group says its chief goals will be to focus on the death penalty and crusade to make positive changes in the Texas criminal justice system.

Harris County has the highest conviction rate for capital cases in the Untied States. Only two states, Florida and Virginia, have prosecuted more death penalty cases.

HCCLA was founded in 1970. Its annual banquet will mark the organization’s 30th anniversary. The banquet will begin at 6:00 p.m. at Tony’s Ballroom at 3009 Post Oak Boulevard in Houston. Steven Bright’s keynote speech is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m.

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June 16, 2000

STATEMENT TO GOVERNOR BUSH

The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, HCCLA, issues this statement today to demand that Governor Bush implement an immediate death penalty moratorium in Texas.

Recent studies have shown that the capital punishment system is flawed. Defendants like Gary Graham are being convicted without proper representation, while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals continues to ignore exculpatory evidence.

Republican governors in three states have already put a moratorium in place because they have recognized that the system is not working to protect the rights of the accused. We call upon Governor Bush, to follow their brave lead.

Gary Graham is to be executed June 22, 2000. HCCLA joins the clarion call to urge Governor Bush to implement an immediate moratorium until the system can be re-examined and solutions found.

Our system is flawed, we know this to be true when a man who faces the ultimate penalty is not afforded due process. Gary Graham was not given a fair trial and is going to be executed. Some witnesses in the case have still yet to be heard in a court of law. He was poorly represented at a trial for his life. While opinions regarding the death penalty itself vary among our 400-plus members, HCCLA stands united on this position.

Richard Frankoff

President-elect

713.520.8040

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FACT SHEET

The Southern Center for Human Rights – SCHR

The Southern Center for Human Rights is a non-profit community-based organization founded in 1976 to fight discrimination against minorities, the poor, and the disadvantaged in the infliction of the death penalty and challenge cruel and unconstitutional treatment of imprisoned men, women, and children throughout the South.

The SCHR provides:

News and developments about the death penalty and death penalty cases

Articles and reports about the death penalty

Death penalty information

Human rights in prisons/jails

Legal, advocacy resources

Director, Stephen B. Bright

email: sbright@schr.org

http://www.schr.org

Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association – HCCLA

HCCLA has been in existence since 1970. Past presidents of the organization include:

Dick DeGuerin – noted defense attorney

Marvin Teague – former member Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Currently HCCLA boasts a membership of over 400 attorneys.

Contact:

President-elect: Richard Frankoff

713.520.8040 – office

713.726.0083 – home

Email: frankoff@orbitworld.com

Mr. Frankoff is available for comment at anytime at the numbers above Mr. Frankoff and Mr. Bright will be available for comment the evening of the dinner.

The HCCLA 30th Anniversary Dinner:

Thursday, June 22, 2000

Tony’s Ballroom

3009 Post Oak Boulevard

6 -7 p.m. Cocktail Hour

7 p.m. Gourmet Dinner

Keynote Speaker: Steven Bright – Attorney at Law

Director, Southern Center for Human Rights-Atlanta Georgia

Complete Media Kits will be available at the dinner.

Mission Statement of HCCLA

Our Mission Is to Assist, Support, and Protect the Criminal Defense Practitioner in the Zealous Defense of Individuals and Their Constitutional Rights. It Is Further Our Mission to Educate and Inform the General Public Regarding the Administration of Criminal Justice and the Need for an Independent, Ethical, and Professional Criminal Defense Bar.

For more, see http://www.hccla.org

Other Information:

Graham’s scheduled execution date: 6/22/2000

The June 16, 2000 Statement to Governor Bush was faxed and the original sent via certified mail. Signed copies of the statement to Governor Bush can be obtained from Mr. Frankoff’s office.