"Capital punishment is murder – especially for the wrongfully accused," is Lindsey Bever's post at the Guardian's comment is free.
So far this year, 23 death row inmates have been executed in the US. One was killed by electrocution, the others by lethal injection. A 24th committed suicide. Among these prisoners, they served a total of 335 years as they were waiting to die. And there are 14 more Americans slated for execution by their government before the end of the year.
We're told to believe they were guilty – of murder. What if they weren't? In fact, what if they were the victims – of prejudice, racism, corruption?
In 1976, Shujaa Graham was one of them – wrongly sentenced to die and shipped to San Quentin prison in California.
Recently, the 62-year-old death row exoneree invited me into the sunroom in the back of his Takoma Park, Maryland, home. It's a space only slightly larger than the prison cell in which he spent more than a decade, but he said he feels oddly at home there. That's where he opened up about his own death sentence – one meant to be carried out in a gas chamber.
I visited Graham to film a short documentary about his childhood in the racially segregated South, his adolescence in gangs in South Central Los Angeles – and in juvenile detention – and, ultimately, his young adulthood on San Quentin's death row where he served three years until a jury exonerated him in the murder of white California prison guard Jerry Sanders. Graham said he still dwells on it 40 years later. But despite his troubled past – or perhaps in spite of it – he has maintained character and appreciation for his life.