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Jewish World ReviewJune 27, 2000 / 24 Sivan, 5760

Evan Gahr

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Consumer Reports

Time for To Execute a Murderer -- HEY, GREGORY PECK. Stay on your toes. It's time to re-make To Kill a Mocking Bird.

The new version is also set in the South. But instead of Depression-era Alabama -- where lawyer Atticus Finch defends a black man falsely accused of rape -- the drama unfolds in Texas at the end of the Clinton era. The global village elders--Alan Dershowitz, Geraldo Rivera, and Jesse Jackson -- frantically try to save an "innocent" man from his impending execution.

Innocent? He was about as innocent as a famed Dershowitz client named O.J. Simpson.

True, Graham admitted to a week-long killing spree back in his tender adolescent days. But why harp on details? Or what Jackson cast as "youthful indiscretions" (Keg parties, armed robbery, rape -- hey, it's all part of growing up.)

Most importantly, according to his legion of admirers, Graham most certainly did not commit the murder outside a Houston supermarket for which he was sent to death row. It's just common sense. The alternative is too far-fetched. Why would anyone think that Graham -- who admitted that in the week after the killing, he shot two people and raped a woman in the course of 10 armed robberies --was also a murderer?

Rivera, Dershowitz, et. al cast Graham as an innocent victim of a racially biased Texas criminal justice system. Worse yet, as Bianca Jagger lamented, this man was denied "due process" -- even though state and federal courts had turned down his appeals some 40 times.

In Harper Lee's 1960 novel Tom Robinson, the innocent victim of racism, was soft spoken and gentle. But Graham went to his death urging supporters to avenge his "murder" by "any means necessary." Demanding to be called by his new African name, Shaka Sankofa, he said, "March on, black people."

Afterwards, a bleary-eyed Jackson appeared on television to say his heart "bleeds" for Graham. He denounced George W. Bush as a "Pontius Pilate" for not trying to stop the execution. In perhaps his most trenchant analogy since he likened Dan Quayle to King Herod, Jackson claimed both Bush and Pilate, were swayed by mob rule. Does that make Graham Jesus?

Once again, the left has deified a criminal.

Graham is the latest poster boy for the left's disingenuous, but highly seductive campaign against the death penalty, which Byron York exposed in the April 2000 The American Spectator. Whether it's attacks on the death penalty, calls to restore voting rights to felons, the premise remains the same: Shift the moral onus from criminals to society.

Peck at his best

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the cultural elite made law enforcement officials the outlaw and turned thugs into victims. Readers will recall that a young Yale Law School student named Hillary Rodham served on a student journal that depicted cops as literally racist pigs. The Yale Review of Law and Social Action even published a cartoon of a decapitated pig-cop that seemed to glorify cop-killing.

This was the dominant ethos at Yale. Miss Rodham's fellow editors included the now illustrious Greg Craig and federal judge Sol Stein, the American Enterprise magazine discloses this month. Stein did not respond to interview requests. Craig says he had no knowledge of the "abhorrent" cartoons. Perhaps that's true. It wasn't the kind of stuff that would have raised eyebrows if you operate under the premise that the only criminals are cops.

Recall that in the 1970s vandals were elevated to "graffiti artists." Thanks to Norman Mailer and others, with just one can of spray paint any punk could be Picasso. That was kid stuff compared to what followed. In 1981, Mailer, smitten by Jack Henry Abbott' s literary prowess, got the career criminal released from jail. Six weeks later, Abbott killed a young waiter.

Then came the 1992 L.A. riots or "rebellion." After that, the left embraced convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and even likened him to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now, Gary Graham, a vicious two-bit thug, becomes a civil rights "martyr." That he raped and maimed is a mere afterthought.

Rivera, who "reported" on the case live from the prison, gave short shrift to Graham's crime spree. He devoted far more time to Graham's travails -- specifically the six last meals Graham claimed he had in the course of winning last-minute reprieves.

Some skepticism about this assertion and the rest of Graham's statements might have seemed appropriate. The six last meals doesn't quite mesh with a database search or USA Today's June 23 chronology of the "key events in the case of Gary Graham.") But it does help make Graham a victim. No wonder that on CNBC's "Upfront Tonight" and his own show this past week, Rivera kept citing the "six last meals" to underscore the death penalty's "barbaric" nature. (Notice who gets cast as barbaric here.)

Worse yet, 135 executions have taken place under Bush, Geraldo reminded viewers. Jesse Jackson also harped on these kind of startling numbers in the course of pushing for congressional legislation sponsored by his son and namesake (D-Illinois) that would establish a moratorium on executions. Both Jacksons will likely get plenty more attention for their new cause.

When candidate Bill Clinton took a break from the campaign trail to oversee the execution of a mentally deficient Arkansas man in 1992, the networks ran just two stories according to the Media Research Center. But since June 12, the networks have aired some 30 interviews and segments on Gary Graham.

NBC's Lisa Myers, reports the MRC, even justified the intensified coverage because of the 131 executions under Gov. Bush's administration. (According to the Associated Press, Graham was the 135th.)

In any event, how about some other numbers? Under Bush's reign how many people have been killed in the course of robberies? How many criminals escaped justice?

And how many of today's killers does the left plan to help make tomorrow's civil rights heroes?

To comment on JWR contributor Evan Gahr's article click here.


06/20/00: Hillary and the Cop-bashers: Will the real Ms. Rodham please stand up?
06/08/00: For voting rights purposes, should criminal offenders be judged not by the content of their character but the color of their skin?
05/10/00: Feminist Majority Rule
05/02/00: The Tin Man's Doctor
03/07/00: Bob Jones hypocrisy: Liberals are lecturing Americans on "anti-Catholicism"?
02/03/00: The red and the Black: The Left-wing Extremist in Bill Bradley’s Camp
01/06/00: Looking backwards: An anchorman's version of the 20th Century
12/16/99: Yellow journalism for the Pink Lady?
12/07/99: How to make the American Psychological Association squirm

© 2000, Evan Gahr. This article first appeared at The American Spectator Online