Shaka Sankofa

2001
oil on canvas
60" x 48"
Unsold
9,000 (unframed)
Shaka Sankofa

UNITED STATES: Based on the testimony of a single eyewitness, Shaka Sankofa, formerly Gary Graham, was sentenced to death for a 1981 murder in Houston, Texas. Despite the complete absence of physical evidence, a court-appointed attorney who presented virtually no defense, and the fact that Sankofa was a juvenile at the time of his arrest, Governor George W. Bush, and a Texas court of appeals ignored the pleas of an international community and executed Sankofa on June 22, 2000. Maintaining his innocence throughout the process, Sankofa fought his executors to the end, necessitating an "extraction team" to remove him from his cell, and several guards to strap him to the gurney on which he would receive the lethal injection. The state of Texas has accounted for more than one-third of all executions since the nationwide reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977, with a disproportionately large number put to death during the 6-year governorship of George W. Bush. In addition, Texas has executed at least seven juveniles and six inmates with mental retardation, and is six times more likely to put to death an African-American convicted of killing a white than the reverse. The United States is the only NATO country that practices capital punishment, and does so in a manner that it widely considered to be inconsistent and racially biased. During the period from 1973-1995, 69% of all death penalty cases reviewed in the United States were overturned due to serious constitutional errors.