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Larry King Live

Does Gary Graham Deserve to Be Executed?

Aired June 22, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the execution of convicted killer Gary Graham is delayed in Texas by another court filing. The debate over the death penalty rages on. Joining us, one of Gary Graham's victims David Spiers, plus in Pensacola, Florida, former Texas prosecutor Rusty Hardin. In West Palm Beach, Florida, the Reverend Albert Mohler president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Los Angeles, Mike Farrell, chairman of Death Penalty Focus, and in Boston, attorney and bestselling author, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin by going right to Huntsville. On the scene is Charles Zewe. He's been there all day. We've had appeals, rejected appeals, rejected. Where are we right at this hour, Charles?

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now, we're at a dead stop, Larry, in terms of this execution. Gary Graham, the convicted killer who was set to die tonight after the Supreme Court voted late today by a 5-4 margin to authorize his execution. His lawyers went into a federal district court in Austin and filed a civil complaint against the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, claiming that their denial of his request for a stay was a violation of his civil rights. A federal judge in Austin threw that complaint out just a while ago. We haven't heard yet whether there will an appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on to the U.S. Supreme Court, if they deny it.

You can hear the chants picking up in background right now. Hundreds protesters in the street outside of the prison. Earlier today, as demonstrators gathered, and as the scheduled execution time approached, a number of demonstrators broke through the police barricades here and were arrested. No one was hurt, but a number of people -- it looked to us like five or six -- were carted off to jail. Right now, the demonstrators are still out there. They cheered word that the execution has been delayed. Graham and his supporters have threatened to use violence to stop this execution. Unless the execution takes place by midnight tonight, under state law, under Texas law, it has to lay over for 30 days. The judge has to go back to judge, and the judge in the case has to then set a new execution date, which can be no sooner than 30 days from now, or July 22.

So we're standing by, prison officials, waiting to see whether the attorney general's office in Austin can resolve this by midnight Central Time -- Larry.

KING: And that's four hours from now, right?

CLARK: Indeed.

KING: All right, Charles, you stay with us, because we'll be going back to you.

Let's go to Houston now and talk with David Spiers, who was robbed and shot by Graham in May of 1981. Mr. Spiers is a supporter of the death penalty and a supporter of the death penalty for Gary Graham.

Was this -- was your occurrence with him after or before the alleged murder?


KING: Yes, David.

SPIERS: Yes. Mine was on May 16, it was a Saturday, And I was...

KING: And the murder occurred when?

SPIERS: I don't know the exact date right now.

KING: Was it after your occurrence?

SPIERS: I think it was after.

KING: All right. And what happened to you?

SPIERS: When I was on the freeway, he pulled out a sawed-off -- my car broke down on Interstate 10, and Gary Graham came over to help me, he pulled over, and said he was going take me to service station to get some help. I jumped in the back seat of his car. As we were driving down the freeway, I noticed we had passed my exit sign, and all of a sudden he pulled out a 12-gauge shotgun and put it to my chest.

At that time, he said he was going go ahead and kill me, because he had already killed three or four other people, and he also told me that he was going to go back and kill my fiancee and her parents afterwards. At that time, he pulled the hammer back of the shotgun and blew my leg in half. I grabbed shotgun away. I fired at him, I fired at him. The windshield went out. The car started spinning. We were fighting. I had the butt of the shotgun. I was hitting him back and forth.

Larry, it was probably one of the most violent things a human being can go through. Cars were hitting us. It was raining very, very hard. It was 10:00 on Saturday night. All of a sudden, another car hit us. My leg was severed. I grabbed my ankle, threw myself out of the car. It broke my leg, my other leg. I pulled myself to the side of the road. I was lifelined to one of the local hospitals here, and I spent three months in the hospital. And I went in a weighing about 205 pounds, Larry, and when I came out, I was weighing about 135.

KING: Did he rob you, David?

SPIERS: Yes. He did rob me, and he -- you know, the funny thing about this was I was an eyewitness to my own murder. But I fought back, and I fought for my life, and the thing about this is that when I spent three months in the hospital, I almost died. I got my last rites. After that, I didn't walk for two years. I still don't walk properly today. I've lost a lot of movement, a lot of function in my leg.

But the scary thing was one reason I did fight for my life is because he did tell me that he murdered two or three people, and I was just going to be another one. But what really scared me was that he told me he is going to go back and murder my fiancee and her parents so they could go with me.

KING: Sure. Did you -- you of course did not testify in his murder trial, as one had nothing to do with the other, correct?

SPIERS: Unfortunately, Larry, I did not, because I was in critical shape. But my violent crime was part of the punishment phase.

KING: It was part of the -- in other words, you were able to testify when they were deciding on life or death.

SPIERS: No. I was not in there, but they took all the 22 crimes that he did, or the 21 plus the murder of Bobby Lambert, and they put it all in one, and that was in the punishment phase. You know, when I was in the hospital, the police brought in stack of photographs, and I picked out three separate photographs of him. I had a visual eye-to- eye contact with him. And when I see him on TV today, 19 years later, and I look at his eyes, I see violence, and I know that he tried to murder me.

KING: Hold it right there, David. David will come back with us for another segment.

He mentioned looking at him. Here's a brief portion of an interview Greta Van Susteren did with Gary Graham in prison a couple weeks ago.


GARY GRAHAM, CONVICTED OF MURDER: I think we are dealing with system here in Texas that is totally out of control. It's a killing system, and it's definitely process here. And poor people are being slaughtered here in Texas, and it's not, you know, evidence.

What evidence of guilt did he have in this case? If the evidence of one witness -- we're talking about one witness who claimed to have seen a total stranger in the dark, 9:30 at the night in the dark at a distance of 40 feet away for two seconds, and that's what they are trying to put me to death for, and that's what they're trying to put me to death for. There is no ballistics test, and the ballistics test concludes that the bullet didn't come from my gun. There were numerous witnesses that have not been heard in court, and yet they are pushing toward that flimsy evidence to try to push this thing, trying to push through on June 22.



KING: As we come back, we're going to spend a couple more moments in a moment with David Spiers, talk on phone with Bernadine Skillern, who testified -- the eyewitness who testified against Gary Graham.

But we understand we have an update in Huntsville. Let's go back to Charles Zewe -- Charles.

ZEWE: Larry, it looks like execution is going to begin shortly. CNN national correspondent Tony Clark, who is covering this from Austin, has just told us that the attorney general John Cornyn's office has announced -- has told him that the two attorneys involved in the case, Jack Zimmermann and Richard Burr, have said that they will not take an appeal in this civil suit, alleging civil rights violations, to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and on up to the Supreme Court, which means it's all over with. If that comes to pass, again, Cornyn's office saying that an appeal will not be filed execution, that the is beginning shortly, so we should hear within the next 15 or 20 minutes, if the execution goes ahead, that it has been completed -- Larry.

KING: Thank you. Stay right with us, Charles.

David Spiers, do you want Gary Graham to die tonight?

SPIERS: Well, Larry, you know, that's a big question. In my particular case, yes, because he tried to murder me, and because of God and my physical strength, I overpowered him in a violent act. And the thing about this is Gary Graham put himself on death row. I didn't.

KING: Yes. So you will not feel in any way sad at his demise?

SPIERS: Not at all. You know, Larry, one thing that you said earlier, or beginning of the show, I am not for the death penalty or against the death penalty. I am not pro-death penalty. I am for each individual case, case by case. Let the judge, let the jury, that's what our system is about, let them make the decisions. And I'm for our system.


SPIERS: Unfortunately, he's been through 38 appeals, and I think this is the last.

KING: Thank you very much, David.

SPIERS: Thank you. KING: David Spiers. Charles Zewe remains on hand in Huntsville. Apparently, this is going to happen within the hour. You stay right with us. We're going to have a panel discuss it.

But let's go on the phone now. She's on a cell phone. So if the sound isn't great, please forgive us.

Bernadine Skillern, the chief witness against Gary Graham, what are your feelings now as apparently this execution will take place shortly? Bernadine, how are you feeling?

BERNADINE SKILLERN, WITNESS: Well, Larry, right now I guess feeling more relief and closure. However, I am thinking about the family and the loved-ones of Gary Graham, who actually love him unconditionally and had no hidden agendas. I feel like at this time we need to respect that grieving of those family members.

KING: So even though there's closure, this is not a happy night for you?

SKILLERN: Of course not. A man is going to die. This is not a happy night.

KING: Now, Bernadine, I know there has been an awful lot of pressure on you and people talking to you. Have you ever, in the last 11 years, doubted this?

SKILLERN: No, Larry, I've never doubted it. I saw Mr. Graham shoot and kill Mr. Lambert, and that will never change. That's the truth, and that's what we need to teach our children, to tell the truth.

KING: When you hear all the other stories of people, a recent story in "The New York Times" by someone who identified someone close up who raped her, turned out to be wrong, others who misidentified someone, that picked him out in lineup, pictures were wrong, does that cause you to double-think this?

SKILLERN: No, it does not, and as in all things, I'm sure there has been errors and mistakes made, but I know within myself, within my heart and soul, I saw Mr. Graham shoot and kill Mr. Lambert. There has never been any doubt. If there ever were, I would have said so.

KING: Have you faced a lot of pressure in the community?

SKILLERN: Sure, there has been pressure often.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... laws of our state, including the death penalty. My job is to ensure our state's laws are enforced fairly. This is a responsibility I take very seriously because the final determination of innocence or guilt is among the most profound decisions a governor can make. I recognize there are good people who oppose the death penalty. I've heard their message and I respect their heartfelt point of view. On October 28, 1981, Mr. Gary Graham was found guilty of capital murder and later sentenced to death by a Harris County grand jury, which concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that he shot and killed Mr. Bobby Lambert during the course of a robbery.

The murder of Mr. Lambert marked the beginning of a week-long crime rampage during which, by his own admission, Mr. Graham committed at least 10 armed robberies involving 13 different victims. Two of his victims were shot. One was kidnapped and raped at gunpoint.

Over the last 19 years, Mr. Graham's case has been reviewed more than 20 times by state and federal courts. Thirty-three judges have heard and found his numerous claims to be without merit. In addition to the extensive due process provided Mr. Graham through the courts, the Board of Pardons and Paroles has thoroughly reviewed the record of this case as well as all new claims raised by Mr. Graham's lawyers.

Today, the Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to allow Mr. Graham's execution to go forward. I support the board's position.

Mr. Graham has had full and fair access to state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. After considering all the facts, I am confident justice is being done.

May God bless the victims, the families of the victims and may God bless Mr. Graham.

KING: Now that was a statement by Governor Bush.

Bernadine Skillern, is she still on the phone?


KING: OK, Bernadine, what do you make of what governor just said?

SKILLERN: Well, the governor, just as he said, he's exhausted 30 or 36 appeals. He's been heard all those times. He committed a crime, and so for that, he received his punishment.

KING: And you would do it again if it happened again?

SKILLERN: Yes. I would do it again if it happened again.

KING: Thank you, Bernadine. Bernadine Skillern on the phone. We've heard from the governor. This execution will take place some time apparently within this hour. The governor mentioned the grand jury found him guilty. It was a jury of course that found him guilty. Grand juries indict. When we come back, Rusty Hardin, Reverend Mohler, Mike Farrell and Alan Dershowitz will go at it in a debate over this case and capital punishment. And of course Charles Zewe will keep us posted in from the site in Huntsville as to the moment of the passing of Gary Graham.

Stay right with us. Don't go away.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN. CNN LEGAL ANALYST: How long did your trial take?

GRAHAM: Probably two, three days at the most. It was quick. I mean, it's probably one of the quickest trials in the state of Texas. It was, you know, it was like an assembly line of justice. I don't think there was any concern, any real concern on the part of the defense, and so the defense basically went along with state in the process, and there was no defense, and that's what so is horrible about, it because -- no matter what you said about the evidence, I think we can all agree on it that the whole process just wasn't fair.



KING: That is scene in Huntsville, as we await word on the impending execution of Gary Graham by lethal injection. We now welcome our panel. In Pensacola, Florida, Rusty Hardin, a former prosecutor in Texas. In West Palm Beach, Florida is Reverend Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, here in Los Angeles, Mike Farrell, chairman of Death Penalty Focus, and in Boston, Alan Dershowitz, bestselling author, defense attorney and a professor at Harvard law school.

Rusty Hardin, are you glad this is going to take place tonight?

RUSTY HARDIN, FORMER TEXAS PROSECUTOR: Oh, no, no. I tried over 14 of these myself, and I never celebrated, and I never thought it was an occasion for celebration, and I think anybody that does celebrate it is not a well person. I don't think it's a happy moment, just as Bernadine doesn't, anytime anyone is executed.

The question is, is this man guilty? And was his conviction appropriate? And I think that answer to both of those questions is yes. If we did away with death penalty tomorrow in the state of Texas, if the legislature did, not demonstrators and not celebrities, but if the legislature did, I wouldn't go into mourning.

But I think it's a punishment society has a right to decide on and has decided, and this man met all the tests.

KING: Mike Farrell, in being against it, you'd agree you're in the minority.

MIKE FARRELL, CHAIRMAN, DEATH PENALTY FOCUS: Less and less so, Larry. Now the new polls show that there is an even number of people who oppose the death penalty and support the death penalty if you allow them the consideration of life without possibility of parole as an alternative.

KING: I see. And that's due to because of errors like Illinois and others that we've learned about it, right? How do you feel about Gary Graham? FARRELL: Well, I don't know Gary Graham. I have been aware of the case for some years, and I feel that it's a tragedy, that we're once again killing a human being unnecessarily in my view.

KING: Whether guilty or innocent?

FARRELL: Whether guilty or innocent, but particularly in a case like this, where there are significant aspects of the case that never reached the court.

KING: Such as witnesses who saw it.

FARRELL: Such as alternative eyewitnesses just as certain as Mrs. Skillern in their appreciation of the fact it was not Gary Graham who did the shooting.

KING: Reverend Mohler, what's the ministers defense of taking a life?

REV. ALBERT MOHLER, SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Well, it comes right from Scripture. The Bible makes very clear that God mandated capital punishment as way of underlining and affirming the value of human life. In the book of Genesis, it is said God said, "When a man sheds another man's blood by a man, his blood shall be shed, for God made man in his own image."

You know, the issue here is not revenge, and the issue here is not a bloodlust of society seeking to make its point. It's about the demands of justice. and to take a human life in an act of murder is to forfeit's one own.

KING: What did the Bible say if that act is done wrongly? Supposing the state executes someone who didn't do it, what does the Bible say?

MOHLER: The Scriptural standard is justice, and so the state must act justly in administering...

KING: And what happens to the state if it doesn't?

MOHLER: Well, that is in the hands of the people, and by judgment of God. And yet I want to underline here that there is no case in modern American history where it can be proved that innocent man was executed. Our system of justice has so many checks and balances and so many procedures of jurisprudence that it is virtually impossible for someone to reach the point execution. This man has had multiple appeals.

KING: Alan, is he right? Has nobody ever been executed that we found later didn't do it? I mean, other than lynchings in the South.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, sure. There have been studies that suggest that the evidence of guilt in many cases is very weak, as it is here. I can't tell you convincingly that this man is absolutely innocent, but nobody can tell you convincingly that this man is guilty. You know, the reverend selectively quotes Scripture. Let me quote Scripture. "On the basis of two witnesses shall a person be executed; on basis of one witness alone, a person may not be executed." That's in Scripture, too, and Scripture requires a high level of certainty before you execute.

Here we have conflicting testimony, and the worst thing is we have a lawyer who was drunk, who was incompetent, who didn't interview witnesses, who didn't do his job, and once the jury convicted on basis of the inadequate representation that this man got in a trial, then everything became rote.

All the courts of appeal said, well, the jury decided. The parole board said the courts of appeals decide. George Bush said, well, the parole board decided. The one thing we didn't hear Governor Bush say today, as he said before, is I believe this man is factually guilty, I believe this man had a decent and competent lawyer. He has previously said nobody has been executed who has not been guilty.

But he took -- he went away short of that in this case. He said the process was fair, but that doesn't mean that this man is guilty. No one can reasonably know that.

KING: All right, let me get a break, and have Rusty Hardin respond to that.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


VAN SUSTEREN: If the case was so thin, if it was simply a single eyewitness who had a prior problem with an identification, why do you think jury convicted you?

GRAHAM: Well, because I think you're with this system of white supremacy in this society, a system of injustice in this society, and it's coming out of Harris County, and you're talking about a poor, young kid that was involved some other robberies, and he acknowledged that. OK. But when you're talking our youth in our community, our youth is expendable, and not just at trial, but at death. When we were born in society, we're expendable. So you're looking at an all white -- predominantly white jury that is viewing (UNINTELLIGIBLE) under these circumstances, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) through the whole entire process, and it's unfortunate this is happening to so many of our youth in the community today.



KING: Again, all appeals exhausted. The crowd continues to gather at the Huntsville Prison in Texas, where shortly we expect the word on whether -- on the time of death of Gary Graham, who will be put to death by lethal injection tonight, during some -- probably during this hour.

Rusty, three of the jurors have already said they would go differently based on what they have learned now. Can you say beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt that Gary Graham committed this crime?

HARDIN: Yes, based on the review of all the record and what the jury's finding was and what those witnesses said at that time. You know...

KING: What about this time. now?

HARDIN: This time -- they have not -- their statements now are the kinds of statements that if they made in 1981 would have let the jury decide in guilt, know about all of his other extraneous offenses. You know, they didn't -- it wasn't what they were saying in '81.

But I've been amazed over the years on Alan's ability to be an expert on things he knows nothing about, and I'm equally amazed today. The fact is there is absolutely no evidence that the defense attorney was drunk during that trial. I don't know where he gets that. And we see -- this is the second time today I have heard this quoting of the Scripture. It is making the lines of those who believe, as Alan do, they have right to quote Scripture, but I doubt if they said the Bible said they should kill, that he would support it then. That's all irrelevant.

Bernadine Skillern identified this man. Other witnesses did not say he wasn't the one. Her description matched him at the scene. The composite matched him.

I mean, basically what's happened -- and this is a guy that said right after the trial -- and it was known then, and I've known it since '93 -- he tells a bailiff, next time I'm not going to leave any witnesses.

KING: Yes, all right, Alan, and then I want to get Mike and the reverend in -- go ahead.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, if this prosecutor is telling us that the level of incompetence that was exemplified in this case -- and I got it from "The New York Times," who did a very thorough story on this man named Ronald Mock, who was infamous in Texas for the incompetent representation that he provides. If he thinks this is the level of competence that the Constitution demands. it tells us something about what is required in Texas. I mean, this is the kind of legal representation that nobody in America should have, certainly somebody facing the death penalty.

HARDIN: Alan, are you telling me you've been representing on national TV what happened as a fact based on story in a newspaper? Now come on, you can do better research than that.

DERSHOWITZ: I believe "The New York Times" more than I believe the self-serving claims of people who would defend the death penalty in Texas when they tell me that the effective counsel is present in these cases. I know how lawyers are picked in Texas. They're picked by judges on the basis of cronyism. They're picked because they provide ineffective assistance of counsel.

KING: Let him get a word in, Alan.

HARDIN: Alan, your bias and your prejudice shows through, and you're letting it affect your professional opinion. You would never stand in front of students and file a brief with so little research into the actual facts as you're now representing is the truth on national TV. You ought to be ashamed.

DERSHOWITZ: What I'm telling you is the truth. and you're not denying it.

KING: All right, I've got to get a break, and we'll come back, and we'll hear from Reverend Mohler and Mike Farrell as well. We won't be dominated just by two people, everybody into the act.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


VAN SUSTEREN: The governor of this state, Governor Bush, says an innocent man has never been executed under his. What's your response to that?

GRAHAM: I have just responded to that. As I said, you cannot publicly, they cannot politically, they cannot afford to -- in honesty, the fact is you have poor people, innocent people killed in Texas who are being systematically killed, and it's a killing machine, and they are killing people for votes and trying to get elected. In this process, the governors, the judges, all of them are part of it, and they cannot acknowledge that, and part of the system that is systematic oppression they are part of, and so they will continue to deny that. I think it's important I think for us to -- we can't trust any decision. We can't trust we can't trust them to fix a pothole in the community. How can we trust to make critical life-and-death decisions concerning people's lives that are caught up in system?



KING: Personally, I remember being at that prison with Karla Faye Tucker about a month or so before she was put to death in that very same prison.

Charles, before we get back to panel, anything new to report to us on the time factor here?

ZEWE: About seven or eight minutes ago, Larry, the reporter witnesses went inside the prison. That is a certain sign that the process is beginning. What happens is that the inmate is put on the gurney, strapped down with big leather straps, the IV is inserted, then he's asked by the warden if he has anything to say. So at that point Gary Graham will have a chance to make final statement, and then he's given three chemicals -- one to knock him out, one to collapse his lungs and one to stop his heart. It all takes about seven minutes totally. And in Texas, there have been 22 executions so far this year. This will be the 23rd. KING: He said, did he not, Charles, that he would resist it? They would forcibly tie him to gurney, that is true?

ZEWE: Yes. And let me tell you, he's living up to it. Yesterday, when they moved him out of Terrell (ph) Unit, which is where most male death row inmates are housed -- in fact, it's where all of the male death row inmates are housed in Texas, when they went to get him at the end of his visitation period during the day, they told him that he would not be returning to his cell, that they were going to take him straight to death house, put him in a cell there. And he -- as they were handcuffing Gary Graham, he started to resist. Well, he had to be subdued at that point and carried into a transport van that brought him here to the Walls (ph) Unit and to holding cell right off death chamber.

He told his spiritual minister today in a conversation late this afternoon that he felt it was his duty to resist his own execution. So I would not be surprised to hear when witnesses come out that -- or hear at least from prison officials that he had to be subdued again and forcibly carried into execution room. We'll see.

KING: Mike Farrell, what's the -- thank you very much, Charles. We'll stay close to you.

Mike Farrell, what's reason you're against the penalty?

FARRELL: I believe killing is wrong. I believe that we demoralize our nation by continuing to indulge in this awful process when it's not necessary. We can put people away for life in prison without the possibility of parole, protect our ourselves and society from them. We can do it cheaper, more efficiently, and we don't make mistakes the way we may be making in this case.

KING: How many countries have thrown it out?

FARRELL: 105 countries have done away with the death penalty.

KING: All the European countries?

FARRELL: All the European countries. We're the last Western developed nation that continued to use this egregious practice, and we do it for political reasons, not because it's in any way more effective, or safer or better, it's simply because of politics.

KING: Reverend Mohler, we know the pope is opposed. Pat Robertson is now opposed. You continue unopposed, right?

MOHLER: Well, the majority of Americans continue to support the death penalty, because they understand the Biblical foundation and they understand the demands of justice. This is a very solemn moment. The state of Texas is acting on behalf of the people to execute a murderer. I believe what is demoralizing to a society is to allow murderers to go unpunished.

This is not revenge. It's not the Lex Taleonis (ph). It's not the law of the jungle. This is the constitutional and legal system of this country working in a way that is appropriate. The demand of evidence for a death penalty case is huge.

KING: You say it's disgusting.

FARRELL: I say it is disgusting. To hear a man of -- purportedly a man of God, purportedly a Christian I assume, forgetting about the fact that Jesus said when asked about eye for eye, that we should not do that, we should turn the other cheek, this going back to Old Testament to selectively cite support for -- moral support for your position is really awful.

KING: Reverend, why isn't life without parole, reverend, justice?

MOHLER: Well, let me say also that the death penalty is clearly supported in the New Testament, which is a testimony to the gospel of Jesus, where the apostle Paul said that the government holds the sword to avenge evil and does so justly. And you know, this whole approach is largely a smokescreen by opponents of the death penalty who want to minimize the consequences of the crime, and in many ways, to celebrate and glorify the criminal.

I mean, this man has had enormous publicity. And just listen to the victim who opened this show today give testimony what this man has done.

FARRELL: May I respond?

KING: Yes.

MOHLER: I resent being told, having you say in public that I am glorifying anybody who commits a crime. I find crime to be atrocious and unacceptable, and I think we as a society have an obligation to maintain a system wherein we can be safe from criminals and from crime. And the idea that you would suggest that those of us who oppose the death penalty are somehow applauding criminals who commit crimes and celebrating those acts is a vile statement.

KING: The question for Reverend Mohler is life without a chance of parole would not be justice, reverend?

MOHLER: Well, for one thing, it often does not mean what it means, but again you come back to the fact that the Scripture says to take a life is to forfeit ones own life.

I want to say, I appreciate Mr. Farrell's words in support of society punishing the offender. What I lament -- and it may have nothing to do with Mr. Farrell or his organization. What I lament are the posters of death-row inmates that have been put up, advertisers who are using the images of death-row inmates in order to sell their goods. It may have nothing to do with what Mr. Farrell represents, but it is a very poisonous trend that is being used by some in this society.

KING: We'll bring back Dershowitz and Hardin as well.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. We'll keep you posted on updates from Huntsville as well. Don't go away.


VAN SUSTEREN: If it were the governor who was sitting across from you right now and not I who is sitting here, what you would say to Governor Bush?

GRAHAM: I think I really like to say to Governor Bush and just an open letter to Governor Bush, and I think, you know, Governor Bush is a very intelligent man. He has -- he is very aware of what is happening here in Texas. He is very aware this system out of control. I think the governor has the power to stop it. He must stop it. He must step in and provide leadership in his role, and stop this genocide and stop this stop this oppression that's happening, and I think it's up the governor, I think it's up to the people, and that's why I'm going to -- I hope the people that are sitting there, people that is all across the country, these are people that has to be involved, and get involved in process, and get out in the streets and protest and change to make a difference.



KING: The presence of the Texas Rangers and police on hand in Huntsville tonight, as protesters -- we understand about 400 to 500 of them -- are outside the Huntsville Prison. We've heard that all appeals have been exhausted and that the expected execution of Gary Graham is imminent. The witnesses have been taken inside.

Rusty Hardin, former Texas prosecutor. Does Illinois, just the situation of what happened in Illinois, give you pause with all of this?

HARDIN: No, it doesn't. I think the responsibility of us in Texas and around country is to try to ensure it continues to be as fairly done as humanly possible. But much of the things that are happening right now are not going to stand up over scrutiny next few months. In the Columbia study, we're going to find that they are wrong about many of those cases and that much of what they said is very misleading. It's being accepted without being challenged right now. We're gathering information around country, and I think you will find it is not accurate. But you know, if you talk about the death penalty, I think you're talking about a punishment society has the right to impose. It's not commanded.

But just as a president sends people to war, and no one likes that, it seems to me that the only real legitimate position, if one is going to oppose it, is for that person to be a pacifist, one who does not believe in taking human life under any circumstances. I think that's a perfectly legitimate position and philosophy to have, but otherwise, one is just picking and choosing. If you think it's all right to have war, but not all right to have death penalty, where do you draw the distinction?

KING: Well, it's wrong to have war, say, if you start the war. Wouldn't it be wrong to execute someone who DNA proves didn't do it?

HARDIN: Of course.

KING: And we know that DNA has released prisoners. Doesn't that give you a pause? People have been released due to DNA who are on death row. Does that give you pause?

HARDIN: All of it gives me pause, Larry, because I think it's a very serious thing that all of us ought to be very careful about. Governor Bush takes this very seriously. I know him. He cares about this. He is looking at it just as deeply as he possibly can, and he is not taking it lightly, nor should anybody in the system take it lightly. But there is system in place that said this man met the standard for the punishment, and they believe the jury unanimously believe he was guilty and imposed it. And I think to say -- I think Mr. Farrell's position is a perfectly legitimate philosophical position, against the death penalty across the boards. But don't pick Gary Graham as an example. That's not who we ought to be talking about when we're talking about whether we should have it.

FARRELL: Excuse me. How about Clarence Brandly (ph)? How about Randall Dale Adams? How about your attorney general confessing error in nine cases recently? How about the man who slept -- the defense attorney who slept at the defense table in the recent case in Texas? How about looking at your system in the same open, and fair and reasonable way that Governor Ryan of Illinois did, and suggesting that human error is possible, even in Texas?

HARDIN: The cases you cited, none of them have resulted in executions. During the course of the appellate process, the system did work. Those people were not executed, the nine cases your talking about. None of that had to do with their guilt or innocence. It had to do with one little portion of testimony that many of us feel should not have been offered. But it had nothing to do with whether these men committed these crimes.

FARRELL: It had to do with the system that you operated in and the people operate in today, and it is responsible for people's lives being put at risk, and in some cases being taken.

HARDIN: What is responsible for people's lives being at risk are people who committed these crimes, and the victims and the walking wounded they leave.

FARRELL: Or the people who were convicted of committing those crimes even if they didn't.

HARDIN: None of whom have been sent to death.

KING: Alan, would you say that the worst thing a state can do is to take the life of someone who didn't do the crime? Another terrible thing a state can do is release someone who did do a crime. Where is the balance?

DERSHOWITZ: No, neither of those is the worst thing a state can do. The worst thing a state can do is to have a process which is unfair. Everybody makes mistakes, but the process in Texas pits brilliant lawyers, like Mr. Hardin, against poor people who had -- there is no public defender system in Texas, and the Governor George Bush, Mr. Hardin's friend, is against it. There's no money available to defend people charged with murder, and George Bush, Mr. Hardin's friend, is in favor of that. There is no criteria for selecting the lawyers, and they're mostly selected on cronyism, and Mr. Hardin and his friend, Mr. Bush, are in favor of that.

A high percentage of the lawyers who depend people in capital cases have been disbarred or otherwise disciplined, and Mr. Bush defends that. It's the process that's unfair. It's not that there are mistakes, it's the inevitability of mistakes, the deliberate building in of a bias in favor of execution in the state of Texas, which makes it the posterchild for the improper imposition of the death penalty. This is not about the death penalty as a moral issue; it's about whether or not Texas imposes it fairly, and it is the worst state in the Union in terms of fairness in imposing death penalty.

KING: I'll have Mr. Hardin respond to that. I've got to get a break, Rusty, and you'll come back and respond, and we'll hear from rest of our panel. By the way, tomorrow night, the first exclusive interview with Dr. Julius Erving, tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Dr. J, about his missing son. That is tomorrow evening.

We'll be right back.


VAN SUSTEREN: There are moments, when have you sadness about what's going to happen to you.

GRAHAM: I think I have sadness about what is happening in the system.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about to you?

GRAHAM: To me, I think certainly I have -- it's been 19 years. It's been a long time, and I have lost my mother, my father. They have both passed since I've been here, and I've had some deaths in the family. And I've had some devastating days and devastating moments, but I have been on the lead end of organizing opposition to this systematic oppression that we're dealing with here, which was necessary. I think any time you're caught up in a system where you see people who are dying, that are being killed in this process, when you come out to the visiting room, and you see the mothers, and the sisters out here, and the fathers and the fathers, who are crying, because they're having to spend these last few moments with their loved ones. Then it certainly produces a lot of sadness.


KING: Rusty Hardin in Pensacola, Alan Dershowitz says Texas is the worst. What's your response?

HARDIN: Well, I hope he won't punish, you know, Governor Bush just because he's a man I like and respect. I hope he doesn't get tarred with that, because he's got enough things to be occupied with.

I think as far as Texas is concerned, Alan's comments really do feed and show, you know, what's at the heart of this. I don't -- I'm not aware that Alan's been down here and studied our system. I know that over 14 capital cases I tried as a prosecutor, every one of sets of defense attorneys also did an excellent job. These convictions do not result because of brilliant trial prosecutors. They result because of horrible facts on the parts of the defense working against great odds, and because their clients are guilty and did horrible things. That is why they happen.

DERSHOWITZ: Would you hire Ron Mock to help you in case?

HARDIN: Nor would I hire you, Alan.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, that shows bad judgment on your part. But Ronald Mock is an utterly incompetent lawyer.

HARDIN: Have you met him? Have you met him?

DERSHOWITZ: I have read about him. I have read about him.

HARDIN: Have you met him?

DERSHOWITZ: I have read the statements he made, and if he's best Texas can offer for people facing the death penalty, you've got something really to be ashamed and embarrassed about.

HARDIN: Well, what I'm ashamed of is that you reach these conclusions with so little facts or knowledge.


DERSHOWITZ: I have studied. I have read these things. There are many cases...

KING: Hold it. Hold it. Hold it, Alan.

All right. Mike Farrell, your position is moral, right, purely?

FARRELL: Essentially, yes.

KING: So -- and Rusty Hardin said if that's your position philosophically he's not going to disagree with you because you are entitled to a philosophical -- you're pacifistic in this matter, right?

FARRELL: In this matter, I am. I also believe that it's for the good of the nation. I believe that -- and I appreciate Mr. Hardin's statement that he won't weep if the death penalty -- death system goes away in Texas. There are a number of prosecutors who feel that way. But I distrust the idea that he would suggest that the Texas system is working efficiently, given its track record.

KING: And Reverend Mohler, you do believe that God loves Gary Graham, don't you? MOHLER: Yes, as a matter of fact, I believe that he can find salvation through Jesus Christ and personal faith in him, and that's the bottom line of what I would like to leave here. But when it comes to the death penalty, I want to say that the majority of Americans believe in it because they believe that justice demands it. And if there are problems in its implementation, in execution, then they must be fixed because an unjust penalty is not just. And so we need to hear those concerns very clearly, but the answer is not to eliminate the death penalty. It is to apply it justly.

DERSHOWITZ: Well, let's fix it.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments and a closing comment from each of our panel members right after this.


GRAHAM: We are talking about a racist society here in Texas that has a history of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) black men. It has routinely tried to execute this process that carries out more executions of poor people and minorities than any other state in the country. And this is a part of the southern culture that we're dealing with. What I did is I stood -- what I did is I stood up and the community has responded to that.



KING: We are breaking into the commercial to go right to Charles Zewe in Huntsville -- Charles?

ZEWE: Larry, it is apparently over. Reverend Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the other witnesses have just emerged, along with Bianca Jagger who was also one of the witnesses for Gary Graham. They are walking across the street over to the prison administration building. That is almost certainly a sign, and it is a usual sign here that executions are at an end.

We expect the official media witnesses and then the prison spokespersons to emerge from the prison shortly. The demonstrators on the street right now continue to be mostly quiet. A lot of choppers in the air, a lot of police in the streets right now. No outbursts so far, I think because we have yet to learn that the execution if over. They don't really understand what it means when these witnesses finally emerge yet.

Again, the execution went a little bit longer because of all the legal wrangling tonight in connection with a last minute suit -- a civil suit claiming a civil rights violation. Through a federal court in Austin that suit was thrown out. And so apparently, Gary Graham now is dead and we expect the official announcement shortly -- Larry.

KING: Certainly from the looks of the face of the witnesses -- looking at Jesse Jackson as he walked by -- it would seem obvious that this is -- why would they be leaving the building if he were not dead, right?

ZEWE: That's right. In fact, this was the first time that Jesse Jackson has witnessed an execution. He's a death penalty opponent and has taken a very vocal role in opposing this particular execution. He said earlier today that he was a very reluctant witness in this case. But Gary Graham personally invited him to be a witness tonight.

And it seemed as though he was -- the Reverend Jackson was walking very slowly as he emerged from the prison, at least to me. We expect to hear from him as the evening goes on. And I expect that those comments will be very emotional.

KING: All right. You stand right by there, Charles.

Mike, are you sad over this?

FARRELL: I'm embarrassed and...

KING: Embarrassed.

FARRELL: ... ashamed -- I'm ashamed of the country for having tolerated this.

KING: Alan, are you sad?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I have no sadness for this man Graham. He deserves everything he gets. This is not about Graham. This is about whether or not we will continue to tolerate a system that Mr. Hardin tells us really can't be improved upon. Everything Texas does is wonderful. And if Texas justice is the best we can do, that's the strongest argument for abolishing the death penalty.

KING: Are you sad, Reverend Mohler?

MOHLER: Well, certainly. We should be sad because this execution has taken place and was necessary. I hope the following the example of Karla Faye Tucker -- Mr. Graham found Jesus Christ as savior and Lord and will have the gift of eternal life. Jesus himself said we should not fear the one who can destroy the body, but the one who can destroy the body and the soul in hell. There is a greater judgment coming.

KING: And Rusty, how do you feel?

HARDIN: I think sad any time anybody's life is taken. I'm even sadder of the victims and the people that he did what he did to. I think we ought to be celebrating the Bernadine Skillerns of the world and mourning the Gary Grahams, but not celebrating.

KING: And Mike, when you say you're angry, is that...

FARRELL: No, I didn't say angry. I said I'm embarrassed and I'm ashamed for this country. Of course I'm sad. The loss of any life, particularly the intentional loss of a life, is...

KING: Even though he has been found guilty of taking a life. FARRELL: Well, and I don't know that he did that, and I don't know...


KING: Well, a jury found him guilty.

FARRELL: Yes. A jury that hadn't seen all the evidence found that. But the fact is: No, I don't believe we have the right, or -- nor do we have the authority, despite what the reverend says, to take a life. And I think that we cheapen ourselves. I think that we as a society have options that do us justice.

The Supreme Court called for the recognition of the evolutionary standards that mark the progress of a maturing society. I think we are that maturing society, and we have to give evidence of that by doing away with things like slavery, as we have, and like subjugation of women, as we have, and now the killing of our fellow citizens.

KING: And Reverend Mohler, what would say in response to that?

MOHLER: I would say that what I most fear is a society that no longer demands justice and executes wrongdoers. And I think inevitably what we will find is that when we decrease the penalty for murder, we will invite more murderers.

KING: Even though Texas and Florida lead in murders and they do the most capital punishments?

MOHLER: Well, let's put it this way, they have the most murderers to judge and to punish. And that's just the bottom line.

FARRELL: The states without capital punishment have a lower murder-homicide rate than the other -- than the states that have one.

KING: All right. Larry King Live -- thank you all very much. Rusty Hardin, Reverend Al Mohler -- Albert Mohler, Mike Farrell. Alan Dershowitz, earlier, David Spiers, Charles Zewe for reporting with us, and Bernadine Skillern.

We invite you to stay tuned now for "CNN NEWSSTAND." We understand there'll be press conferences and interviews with witnesses. And we'll be staying with this throughout the night on CNN.

Gary Graham executed tonight in Huntsville, Texas.

We'll be back tomorrow night with Dr. Julius Erving. Dr. Julius Erving tomorrow night. Stay tuned for "CNN NEWSSTAND" and more coverage of the scene in Texas.

I'm Larry King. Good night.



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