Monday, April 02, 2007

 

Shujaa Graham in TN!

TN better brace itself, because it doesn't know what's about it hit it! Shujaa Graham arrived late last night. He'll be speaking at MTSU this morning, Tenn State tonight, and doing an interview in a story about Tennessee's push for a moratorium tonight. Then tomorrow, Shujaa will be addressing the Black Caucus of the Tennessee General Assembly and American Baptist College.

In 1973, Shujaa was convicted for the murder of a prison guard in California, and in 1976, after all black jurors were excluded from the jury, Shujaa, and African-American man, was sentenced to death. It took three more years to get Shujaa's death sentence overturned, and several more years before a fourth trial finally exonerated Shujaa and he was freed in 1981. Shujaa now serves on the board of directors of the Journey of Hope, which is where I was privileged to meet him for the first time last fall.

I would like to tell you that Shujaa's experience is unique, but, sadly, it is not. Shujaa is just one of the 123 men to be exonerated from death rows in America in the modern era (about 1 exoneration for every 9 executions in the same time period). More than half of those people were people of color, and Shujaa is also not unique in being a person of color tried before an all white jury. In Tennessee, a full quarter of the African-American men sentenced to death in Tennessee have been sentenced by all-white juries. This includes Erskine Johnson, convicted in Memphis (with a population roughly 50% African-American) of a 1985 murder, despite the fact that he was in St. Louis at the time. Johnson's death sentence has been overturned, but he is still serving a life sentence for a crime that he, in all likelihood, did not commit. And let's not forget Paul House.

I'm sure that Shujaa's visit will help us call attention to the deadly flaws in Tennessee's capital punishment system. Keep you eyes on news channel 2 tonight or tomorrow for Shujaa's story!
Comments :
yay Shujaa!
 
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