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A.K.A.: "Shaka Sankofa"
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (17) - Robberies
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 13, 1981
Date of arrest: 7 days after
Date of birth: September 5, 1963
Victim profile: Bobby Grant Lambert (male, 53)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Harris County, Texas, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Texas on June 22, 2000

photo gallery


Graham v. Collins (91-7580), 506 U.S. 461 (1993).

syllabus opinion

clemency petition

hollywood, murder and texas
a case study of lies, half-truths an intimidation


During the period May 14 through May 20 of 1981, Gary Graham robbed some 13 different victims at nine different locations, in each instance leveling either a pistol or a sawed-off shotgun on the victim.

Two of the victims were pistol-whipped, one being shot in the neck; a 64-year old male victim was struck with the vehicle Graham was stealing from him; and a 57-year old female victim was kidnapped and raped.

A total of 19 eyewitnesses positively identified Graham as the perpetrator. Graham pled guilty to and was sentenced to 20-year concurrent prison sentences for 10 different aggravated robberies committed May 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, and 20, 1981.

During the armed robbery of one victim, Richard B. Sanford, Gary Graham boasted of having killed six other people already.

On May 13, 1981, at 9:35pm, Bobby Grant Lambert was robbed and murdered in a Safeway parking lot in north Houston, Texas.

Four out of the original five witnesses described the murderer as a young, thin black male, from medium height to tall.

On May 27th, 17-year-old Gary Graham, a 5'9", 145 lb. black male, was positively identified as Mr. Lambert's murderer by Bernadine Skillern, the one eyewitness who clearly saw the killer's face.

Five months later, Graham was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. By the time he was executed 19 years later, Graham had secured the support and following of anti-death penalty activists who insisted that he was innocent and the death penalty was racist, including Danny Glover, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton.

Graham resisted and fought the guards who took him from death row and made a long, defiant final statement just before his execution.


Texas Attorney General

News Release

June 14, 2000

From Attorney General John Cornyn regarding the execution of Gary Graham:

"The people of Texas can be assured that Gary Graham is guilty of capital murder and that he has received the due process our American system guarantees. The incredible brutality and raw violence of Gary Graham forever will haunt the memories of Texans. The capital murder of Bobby Lambert started Gary Graham's rampage of crime in 1981.

During the period May 14 through May 20 of that year, Gary Graham robbed some 13 different victims at nine different locations, in each instance leveling either a pistol or a sawed-off shotgun on the victim.

Two of the victims were pistol-whipped, one being shot in the neck; a 64-year old male victim was struck with the vehicle Graham was stealing from him; and a 57-year old female victim was kidnapped and raped. "Not even Gary Graham can cast doubt on these crimes: he pleaded guilty to and was sentenced to 20-year concurrent prison sentences for 10 different aggravated robberies committed May 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, and 20, 1981. During the armed robbery of one victim, Richard B. Sanford, Gary Graham boasted of having killed six other people already.

"The only crime for which he claims to be falsely convicted is the murder of Bobby Lambert. In 1981, Gary Graham was convicted by a Harris County jury which concluded that "beyond a reasonable doubt" he was guilty of capital murder based on eyewitness testimony.

Then in the sentencing phase of his trial, the jury heard evidence of Gary Graham's violent criminal history and sentenced him to death for the murder of Mr. Lambert.

"Gary Graham has repeatedly put forth the names of alleged new witnesses who either purport to provide an alibi for Graham or allege he was not the shooter. Evidence from all such witnesses that Gary Graham has produced since the trial, years afterward, has been considered by the courts and found to be not credible. "Both state and federal courts have been involved in hearing and reviewing his case. Gary Graham has had at least 20 appeals and his claims have been heard and rejected by at least 33 different judges.

"Each death penalty case in Texas receives the highest degree of scrutiny in our criminal justice system and the attention given Gary Graham's case in state and federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court, demonstrates that his constitutional rights have been respected.

This has been a long, extensive process with proper deliberation by the courts. "Gary Graham is not the innocent victim in this case, he is the convicted murderer. For 19 years, Graham's victims and their families have had to live with the consequences of his crimes. It is now time for them to have the closure and the justice our system provides."

On the night of May 13, 1981, Graham accosted Bobby Grant Lambert in the parking lot of a Houston, Texas, grocery store and attempted to grab his wallet. When Lambert resisted, Graham drew a pistol and shot him to death. Five months later, a jury rejected Graham's defense of mistaken identity and convicted him of capital murder.

An eyewitness who identified Graham had followed him through the parking lot in her car for a short time after the murder. Lambert was killed during a crime spree the rest of which seventeen-year old Graham confessed to, including 10 other armed robberies, two shootings and a rape.


Gary Graham

Gary Graham, 36, was executed by lethal injection on 22 June in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a 53-year-old man outside a supermarket. On 13 May 1981, Bobby Lambert was coming out of a supermarket when an assailant reached into his pockets and shot him with a pistol as they scuffled. The robber got away with the change from a $100 bill.

Gary Graham, then 17, was arrested a week later (20 May) for the rape and robbery of a taxi driver. Lisa Blackburn said that Graham abducted her at a gas station, took her to a vacant place and repeatedly raped her.

Then, they went to her house, where he took her valuables, shot up the walls, got undressed, and fell asleep. Blackburn then took Graham's gun and called police, who arrested him at the scene. Blackburn said that during the 5-hour ordeal, Graham kept saying to her "I've killed three people, and I'm going to kill you."

Police linked 22 crimes that occurred from 13 to 20 May to Graham. On 16 May, Gary Spiers was robbed and shot in the thigh with a sawed-off shotgun. From a hospital bed, he identified Graham as the shooter to police. Spiers said that Graham saw he was having car trouble and offered to give him a lift, and attempted to rob him after he got in Graham's car.

Graham was also identified by Greg Jones as the man who shot him in the throat and left him for dead. In all, Graham was suspected in 19 aggravated robberies -- including the shootings of Spiers and Jones and the rape of Blackburn -- two auto thefts, and Lambert's murder. He pleaded guilty to ten of the robberies.

On the night of Bobby Lambert's murder, Bernadine Skillern was sitting in her car in the parking lot. She said that when a man put a pistol to Lambert's head, she blew her horn, and the gunman turned to look at her. There was a pop, Lambert dropped his bag of groceries, and the other man fled. She followed him in her car until her screaming children made her stop.

Skillern said that she got a good look at the killer for about a minute and a half. After Graham was arrested, Skillern picked his mug shot and chose him from a police lineup. She identified him at trial and has continued to do so ever since.

Graham has admitted responsibility for the other crimes, but says he did not kill Bobby Lambert and that Skillern's identification of him is mistaken. Two other eyewitnesses, though they could not identify the killer because neither saw his face, nevertheless said it could not have been Graham, because he is 5'10", while the assailant they saw was between 5'3" and 5'6". Graham also faults his attorney, who did not call the other two eyewitnesses to testify and did not cross-examine Skillern.

Most capital murder cases are decided without any eyewitnesses. A number of criminal defense attorneys have stated that they prefer when there is an eyewitness because it gives them a chance to create reasonable doubt. Harris County defense attorney Robert Morrow said, "I see there's an eyewitness and I see an opportunity." Another local defense lawyer, Floyd Freed, said, "it certainly gives me more hope at trial" if the prosecutors present an eyewitness.

Death penalty cases are usually decided on confessions, physical evidence, and/or circumstantial evidence. In Graham's case, there was no confession or physical evidence, and circumstantial evidence was weak, so the prosecutors had to base most of their case on Bernadine Skillern's testimony.

At his trial, Graham gave no alibi for his whereabouts on the night Bobby Lambert was killed. His lawyer said Graham told him only that he had spent the evening with a girlfriend whose name, description, and address he could not remember.

On appeal, four witnesses came forward to offer alibis for Graham, but when two of them -- one was his wife -- were called to testify before a state district judge, they contradicted themselves and each other and were deemed not credible.

Graham's case attracted national attention from the media, anti-death-penalty groups, and even Hollywood. As the date drew nearer, each side offered new evidence to support their positions. Graham's attorneys presented signed affidavits from three jurors who said they had a change of heart because they did not know about the other two eyewitnesses when they sentenced him to death.

Harris County prosecutors filed an affidavit signed by the bailiff who escorted Graham from the courtroom after his death sentence, who heard him say, "Next time, I'm not going to leave any witnesses." A prosecutor filed an affidavit stating that the bailiff related the comment to him within minutes of the time it was allegedly made. Harris County District Attorney Johnny Holmes noted that Graham's case was reviewed 35 times by the courts and that his conviction was never overturned. The Supreme Court rejected Graham's appeal in May.

Graham, who called himself Shaka Sankova since 1995, was in the top 25 in Texas death row seniority and had seven prior execution dates. In January 1999, he called for violence and asked his supporters to go to Huntsville armed with AK-47 rifles to stop his execution.

New Black Muslim Movement leader Quanell X urged young blacks to take out their anger against whites in wealthy neighborhoods if this execution was carried out. And recently, Graham reiterated his intention to "stop this thing by any means necessary."

Many Huntsville businesses closed early Thursday because of safety concerns. The Walker County courthouse closed at noon and city officials advised business owners to clear the area. Prison workers who live in about 30 houses near the Walls Unit, where all Texas executions are performed, were told to leave and staffers in the administrative offices were given the day off.

Police set up barricades Wednesday night and set up two protest areas on opposite sides of the Walls Unit, one side for Graham's supporters and the other side for the Ku Klux Klan. At noon on Thursday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Graham a 120-day reprieve by a 14-3 vote.

The board also voted against commuting his punishment (12-5) and against a pardon (17-0). Later in the afternoon, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, both of which had turned down Graham's appeals in the past, did so again.

The Supreme Court's vote fell 5 to 4. Graham's lawyers' final move was to file a civil suit against the Texas parole board. A federal judge rejected that suit and Graham's attorneys did not appeal that ruling. The execution, scheduled for 6:00 p.m., was delayed for over two hours because of the last-minute appeals and lawsuit.

Though under Texas law the governor has the power to grant one 30-day stay of execution per prisoner, that option was not available to Governor George W. Bush because his predecessor, Ann Richards, used it on Graham in 1993.

Even if that option was available to him, however, it is a given that Bush, who said he supported the execution, would not have used it. Outside the Walls Unit, a small fight broke out when some of Graham's supporters snuck into the Klan demonstration area, but a riot team from the Texas Department of Public Safety quickly moved in to stop it. After the Supreme Court's decision was announced, Graham supporters broke through police lines and six were arrested.

Graham resisted and fought the guards who took him from death row in Livingston to the Walls Unit in Huntsville Wednesday evening. He refused meals that night and on Thursday.

Extra restraints were used to strap him to the gurney, where he made a long, defiant final statement in which he said he was being lynched and that the death penalty was a "holocaust for black people in America." Gary Graham, a.k.a. Shaka Sankova, was pronounced dead at 8:59 p.m.


Gary Lee Graham Last Statement

I would like to say that I did not kill Bobby Lambert. That I'm an innocent black man that is being murdered. This is a lynching that is happening in America tonight. There's overwhelming and compelling evidence of my defense that has never been heard in any court of America. What is happening here is an outrage for any civilized country to anybody anywhere to look at what's happening here is wrong.

I thank all of the people that have rallied to my cause. They've been standing in support of me. Who have finished with me. I say to Mr. Lambert's family, I did not kill Bobby Lambert. You are pursuing the execution of an innocent man.

I want to express my sincere thanks to all of ya'll. We must continue to move forward and do everything we can to outlaw legal lynching in America. We must continue to stay strong all around the world, and people must come together to stop the systematic killing of poor and innocent black people.

We must continue to stand together in unity and to demand a moratorium on all executions. We must not let this murder/lynching be forgotten tonight, my brothers. We must take it to the nation. We must keep our faith. We must go forward. We recognize that many leaders have died. Malcom X, Martin Luther King, and others who stood up for what was right.

They stood up for what was just. We must, you must brothers, that's why I have called you today. You must carry on that condition. What is here is just a lynching that is taking place.

But they're going to keep on lynching us for the next 100 years, if you do not carry on that tradition, and that period of resistance. We will prevail. We may loose this battle, but we will win the war. This death, this lynching will be avenged. It will be avenged, it must be avenged. The people must avenge this murder. So my brothers, all of ya'll stay strong, continue to move forward.

Know that I love all of you. I love the people, I love all of you for your blessing, strength, for your courage, for your dignity, the way you have come here tonight, and the way you have protested and kept this nation together. Keep moving forward, my brothers. Slavery couldn't stop us.

The lynching couldn't stop us in the south. This lynching will not stop us tonight. We will go forward. Our destiny in this country is freedom and liberation. We will gain our freedom and liberation by any means necessary. By any means necessary, we keep marching forward.

I love you, Mr. Jackson. Bianca, make sure that the state does not get my body. Make sure that we get my name as Shaka Sankofa. My name is not Gary Graham. Make sure that it is properly presented on my grave. Shaka Sankofa.

I died fighting for what I believe in. I died fighting for what was just and what was right. I did not kill Bobby Lambert, and the truth is going to come out. It will be brought out. I want you to take this thing off into international court, Mr. Robert Mohammed and all ya'll. I want you, I want to get my family and take this down to international court and file a law suit. Get all the video tapes of all the beatings. They have beat me up in the back.

They have beat me up at the unit over there. Get all the video tapes supporting that law suit. And make the public exposed to the genocide and this brutality world, and let the world see what is really happening here behind closed doors. Let the world see the barbarity and injustice of what is really happening here. You must get those video tapes. You must make it exposed, this injustice, to the world. You must continue to demand a moratorium on all executions. We must move forward Minister Robert Mohammed.

Ashanti Chimurenga, I love you for standing with me, my sister. You are a strong warrior queen. You will continue to be string in everything that you do. Believe in yourself, you must hold your head up, in the spirit of Winnie Mandela, in the spirit of Nelson Mandela. Ya'll must move forward. We will stop this lynching. Reverend Al Sharpton, I love you, my brother.

Bianca Jagger, I love all of you. Ya'll make sure that we continue to stand together. Reverend Jesse Jackson and know that this murder, this lynching will not be forgotten. I love you, too, my brother. This is genocide in America.

This is what happens to black men when they stand up and protest for what is right and just. We refuse to compromise, we refuse to surrender the dignity for what we know is right. But we will move on, we have been strong in the past. We will continue to be strong as a people. You can kill a revolutionary, but you cannot stop the revolution.

The revolution will go on. The people will carry the revolution on. You are the people that must carry that revolutionary on, in order to liberate our children from this genocide and for what is happening here in America tonight. What has happened for the last 100 or so years in America.

This is the part of the genocide, this is part of the African (unintelligible), that we as black people have endured in America. But we shall overcome, we will continue with this. We will continue, we will gain our freedom and liberation, by any means necessary. Stay strong. They cannot kill us. We will move forward.

To my sons, to my daughters, all of you. I love all of you. You have been wonderful. Keep your heads up. Keep moving forward. Keep united. Maintain the love and unity in the community. And know that victory is assured. Victory for the people will be assured.

We will gain our freedom and liberation in this country. We will gain it and we will do it by any means necessary. We will keep marching. March on black people. Keep your heads high. March on. All ya'll leaders. March on. Take your message to the people. Preach the moratorium for all executions. We're gonna stop, we are going to end the death penalty in this country.

We are going to end it all across this world. Push forward people. And know that what ya'll are doing is right. What ya'll are doing is just. This is nothing more that pure and simple murder. This is what is happening tonight in America. Nothing more than state sanctioned murders, state sanctioned lynching, right here in America, and right here tonight.

This is what is happening my brothers. Nothing less. They know I'm innocent. They've got the facts to prove it. They know I'm innocent. But they cannot acknowledge my innocence, because to do so would be to publicly admit their guilt. This is something these racist people will never do.

We must remember brothers, this is what we're faced with. You must take this endeavor forward. You must stay strong. You must continue to hold your heads up, and to be there. And I love you, too, my brother. All of you who are standing with me in solidarity.

We will prevail. We will keep marching. Keep marching black people, black power. Keep marching black people, black power. Keep marching black people. Keep marching black people. They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me tonight.


Shaka Sankofa (born Gary Lee Graham) (September 5, 1963 – June 22, 2000) was convicted and sentenced to death at the age of 18 for the brutal murder of fifty-three year-old husband and father Bobby Grant Lambert in Houston, Texas on May 13, 1981. He was executed by lethal injection at 8:49 pm on Thursday, June 22, 2000 in Huntsville, Texas, aged thirty-six.

Lambert's murder occurred at night in the parking lot of a Safeway supermarket. Although he admitted that at the time of Lambert's death he was on a week-long spree of armed robberies, Sankofa maintained his innocence of Lambert's murder from the time of his arrest and throughout the nineteen years he spent on death row.

Sankofa's supporters, including Coretta Scott King, bishop Desmond Tutu, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and celebrities Danny Glover, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Ritchie, Harry Belafonte and Ruby Dee, brought his case international attention, arguing that his conviction was based on the testimony of a single eyewitness who said she saw him for a few seconds in the dark parking lot committing the murder.

The jury did not hear testimony from a few other apparent eyewitnesses who believed that Sankofa was not the killer. No other suspects were questioned and there was a lack of physical evidence. Supporters also argued that there was other crucial evidence the jury did not hear and that he had poor legal representation at the time of his trial.

At the time of his execution, Sankofa became the twenty-third inmate executed in Texas during 2000 and the two-hundred and twenty-second person to be executed in Texas since capital punishment was resumed there in 1982.


Born to a severely mentally ill mother, Thelma Griffin, and a chronic alcoholic father, Willie Graham, his was a childhood of poverty, abuse and neglect. His mother required extended periods of institutionalization for her mental illness. As a result, Sankofa began living with other people. Passed from relative to relative, he was mainly raised by his paternal grandmother, who was also mentally ill, his father, who spent years of Shaka's childhood in prison, and stepmother, Elnora Graham, in an oppressed community in Northeast Houston amid extreme poverty. Although his parents and stepmother loved him dearly, life was difficult. Sankofa recalled as a young child having to chase and drag his mentally ill mother home when she took off down a neighborhood street totally nude, while neighborhood children laughed at her. His mother, Thelma, was found dead on the street in 1988, just days after her release from a mental hospital. However, until their deaths (both parents are now deceased) they were fiercely sure of his innocence and spent their last years struggling to free him from death row.

A high school dropout who had had a poor education, Sankofa was unable to fully read and write by the time of his arrest. Growing out of control as a teen, his negative behavior began with nonviolent petty offenses, starting on May 14, 1981. On May 20 at age 17, he was arrested for his first major felony: the series of 10 armed robberies and aggravated assaults during his week-long spree of crime, including the rape of 57-year-old taxi driver Lisa Blackburn, which he pleaded guilty to and faced 20-year prison sentences. On May 27, however, witness Bernadine Skillern allegedly identified Sankofa as Lambert's murderer, and on November 9, at age 18, Sankofa was on Death Row for the murder of Lambert.


Sankofa was survived by his daughter and son, Deidra and Gary Lee Hawkins, ages 19 and 20 (whom he had fathered at age 15), respectively, at the time of their father's execution. He was also survived by his granddaughter, stepmother, paternal grandmother, sister, stepsister, and three brothers.

His son Gary, who was two years old at the time of his father's arrest, was arrested at the age of 20 for the murder of his friend, 32-year-old Melvin Pope, on March 28, 2000, about three months before his father's execution. On March 27, 2001, he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison. He maintains his innocence.


In prison (Texas Department of Criminal Justice), Sankofa learned to read and write, earning his GED and paralegal certification. From the day of his arrest, he acknowledged his week-long crime spree and took full responsibility for his criminal acts. For these crimes, he had served almost two decades in prison, apologizing verbally and in writing to the victims of these crimes and expending time and energy to get the message out to young people to turn their back on criminal conduct.

He became a political activist and in 1995 changed his name from Gary Lee Graham to Shaka Sankofa, because the name "Shaka" was chosen in honor of the great South African warrior Shaka Zulu, and "Sankofa" means to go back to the past and bring to the present, according to Rev. Herbert Daughtry of New York; the name also "represented linking the current struggle against capital punishment with the historical struggle Blacks have waged for freedom, justice and equality." He also co-founded a prison organization and newspaper, The Endeavor Project, which were devoted to abolishing the death penalty. By the end of his life, he had also written a soon-to-be-published book, The Evolution of Shaka Sankofa.

Sankofa was scheduled to be executed five times: once in 1987, three times in 1993 (April, in which Lambert's widow Loretta appealed to Governor Ann Richards to spare Sankofa's life; May and August), and once on January 11, 1999, and each time he was given a stay of execution before it was lifted.


Sankofa was put to death following a series of last minute legal maneuvers, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to halt the execution in a 5-4 vote. Sankofa's attorneys then filed a civil suit in federal court in Austin, Texas, charging the execution was a violation of his civil rights. District Court Judge James Nowlin rejected that claim.

There was heavy security outside the Huntsville Unit, known as "The Walls", with riot police equipped with tear gas and batons. Thousands of protesters showed up outside the prison on the night of Sankofa's execution. Anti-death penalty advocates marched, waved signs and chanted, "Let Gary Graham live!" Prison authorities took no chances, corralling Sankofa's opponents and supporters on separate ends of the imposing brick prison. At one point, about a hundred Sankofa supporters attempted to confront around twenty Ku Klux Klansmen demonstrating in favor of the execution, but the police kept them apart. Two protesters who tried to break through police barricades were tackled by officers, who handcuffed them and took them away.

After the appeals had failed, Sankofa resisted when the time came for him to be taken to the death chamber. A Cell Extraction Team was dispatched to force him towards the death chamber, where it took five jail guards to strap him to the gurney.

Witnesses to the execution on the victim's behalf included Bobby Hanners, Lambert's grandson; Diane Clements, a family friend and director of the victims' rights group, Justice for All; and Rick Sanford, one of Graham's victims during his rampage. "My heart goes out to the Graham family as they begin the grieving process," Hanners said in a written statement. "I also pray Gary Graham made peace with God. But I truly believe justice has been served."

Witnesses to the execution on Sankofa's behalf included his stepmother Elnora Graham, Bianca Jagger, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton.

Shaka Sankofa's final statement

Sankofa released a final statement in which he again asserted his innocence and denounced the government.

"Preach the moratorium for all executions. We're gonna stop, we are going to end the death penalty in this country. We are going to end it all across this world. Push forward, people. And know that what y'all are doing is right. What y'all are doing is just. This is nothing more that pure and simple murder. This is what is happening tonight in America. Nothing more than state sanctioned murders, state sanctioned lynching, right here in America, and right here tonight. This is what is happening, my brothers. Nothing less. They know I'm innocent. They've got the facts to prove it. They know I'm innocent. But they cannot acknowledge my innocence, because to do so would be to publicly admit their guilt. This is something these racist people will never do."

Funeral and memorial service

More than two thousand people attended the June 28, 2000 wake and two thousand two hundred people attended Sankofa's funeral the following day. He was buried at Paradise North Cemetery in a gold-colored casket, wearing a turquoise and gold African garment.


Contentious Texas Case Ends with Execution of Gary Graham

By Michael Graczyk - Abilene Reporter-News Online

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Gary Graham, subject of the most contentious Texas death penalty case since Gov. George W. Bush began running for president, was executed Thursday night for a 1981 murder he said he did not commit. Graham, 36, received a lethal injection for the killing of a man in a holdup outside a Houston supermarket.

The state parole board and appeals courts rejected his arguments that he was convicted on shaky evidence from a single eyewitness and that his trial lawyer did a poor job. Graham, who had vowed to “fight like hell” on the trip to the death chamber, put up a struggle. He was strapped to the gurney around his wrists and across his head — more restraints than are normally used in Texas executions.

He made a long, defiant final statement in which he reasserted his innocence, said he was being lynched and called the death penalty a holocaust for black Americans. He asked to be called Shaka Sankofa to reflect his African heritage. “I die fighting for what I believed in,” Graham said. “The truth will come out.”

Bush said he supported the execution and pointed out that Graham's case had been reviewed by 33 state and federal judges. “After considering all of the facts I am convinced justice is being done,” Bush said after final appeals were denied. “May God bless the victim, the family of the victim, and may God bless Mr. Graham.”

Graham's supporting witnesses included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Biana Jagger, representing Amnesty International. Witnesses said Jackson and Graham prayed and Graham looked at Jackson just before he died. Also present were some of the victims of Graham's other crimes, and Bobby Hanners, the grandson of Bobby Lambert, the man he was convicted of killing.

“My heart goes out to the Graham family as they begin the grieving process. I also pray Gary Graham made peace with God. But I truly believe justice has been served,” Hanners said. Outside the Huntsville prison, hundreds of Graham supporters gathered in stifling heat and humidity near the brick building where 222 executions have now been carried out since capital punishment resumed in Texas in 1982.

The total is by far the highest in the nation. When the Texas parole board, made up of 18 Bush appointees, refused to block the execution, that left the Republican governor with no options. The single 30-day reprieve a Texas governor may unilaterally give a condemned inmate was issued to Graham by Bush's predecessor in 1993.

The parole board, which has spared a prisoner only once during Bush's tenure, could have granted a 120-day reprieve, a commutation to a lesser sentence, or a conditional pardon.

“I can say, unequivocally, that the board's decision not to recommend clemency was reached after a complete and unbiased review of the petition and evidence submitted,” board chairman Gerald Garrett said, hours before the execution.

The Supreme Court, a federal judge and state appeals court also turned down Graham's last-minute appeals, which delayed the execution for more than two hours.

The nation's high court turned down Graham's appeal on a 5-4 vote along its conservative-liberal ideological fault line. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas voted to reject the appeal. Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer voted to order the execution postponed, presumably to give the court more time to consider his appeal.

Graham was convicted of killing 53-year-old Bobby Lambert in a holdup outside a Houston supermarket one night in 1981. He pleaded guilty to 10 robberies around the same time but said he was innocent of the murder.

No physical evidence tied Graham to the killing, and ballistics tests showed that the gun he had when he was arrested was not the murder weapon. But the witness who identified him, Bernadine Skillern, has never wavered. Skillern, who was waiting in her car outside the supermarket while her daughter ran inside, saw the holdup from about 30 feet away.

She said the lighting in the parking lot was adequate for her to see Graham. “I don't feel joy and I don't feel sadness,” she said after the execution. “I only feel relief. I hope to get back to my privacy, put this incident behind me and now move on.”

Graham also argued that his lawyer during the trial, Ron Mock, should have introduced other witnesses who would say he was not the killer. But those witnesses initially told police they couldn't identify the killer, and prosecutors said they were not actual eyewitnesses. During Bush's 51/2 years in office, 133 men and two women have been executed.

He said he would treat Graham's case no differently than any other he has considered. Two years ago, Bush told the parole board to review the case of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas because of questions about Lucas' conviction. His death sentence eventually was commuted to life.

This month, Bush granted a condemned man a 30-day reprieve so he could pursue DNA tests. The debate over Graham's case came amid growing questions about the death penalty. Illinois Gov. George Ryan has placed a moratorium on executions, and Bush and Vice President Al Gore have been forced to address the issue as they campaign for president.

Graham's case brought the loudest protests since pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker was executed in 1998, the first woman put to death in Texas since the Civil War era. “I recognize there are good people who oppose the death penalty,” Bush said. “I've heard their message and I respect their heartfelt point of view.”

The execution was witnessed by supporters that included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Amnesty International representative Bianca Jagger. Leading up to the execution, Graham refused meals but met for about an hour with Jackson, who said he and the inmate talked and prayed. “He was amazingly upbeat,” Jackson said. “There were no tears shed. He had a sense of inner peace. He feels he was being used as a kind of change agent to expose the system. With every passing hour ... there is mass education around the world about what is happening in Texas.”

Outside the prison, eight people were arrested for breaking through police lines and a juvenile was arrested for throwing a plastic bottle at a prison administrator, who was not hurt. Other activists burned American flags. Another 150 people protested outside the governor's mansion in Austin. Protests were also held as far away as San Francisco and Northampton, Mass. In both cities, death penalty opponents were arrested for blocking traffic.


Gary Graham Says Texas Will Execute an Innocent Man Based on "Flimsy Evidence"

June 12, 2000

(CNN) - In an online interview, Texas death row inmate Gary Graham tells CNN Legal Analyst Greta Van Susteren that he is innocent of the 1981 murder of Bobby Grant Lambert outside a Houston Safeway. He says his court-appointed trial lawyer failed to present a "mountain of evidence" during his two-day trial.

Graham, who is also known as Shaka Sankofa, admits to 10 aggravated robberies during the week of the murder, including shooting and seriously wounding at least one victim. But he says he is scheduled to be executed June 22 for a murder he did not commit.

Graham's life is now in the hands of Gov. George W. Bush and the Texas pardons board. According to a Bush spokesperson, Bush can accept or refuse a recommendation from the board to commute Graham's sentence or delay his execution, but if the board votes to carry out the execution, the governor "has no options" to stop it.

SAVE GARY GRAHAM! Texas Governor Bush To Execute An Innocent, Juvenile Offender.

"The odds and the danger that we face in our struggle for justice is great but even greater is the power of the people." -Gary Graham

Gary Graham is Innocent! Bobby Lambert was tragically murdered in a Safeway grocery store parking lot on May 13, 1981. Gary was miles away from the grocery store with at least four people when the crime occurred. Those four witnesses have all taken polygraph tests and passed, stating Gary was with them the night of the murder. He Was Convicted By A Mistaken Identification!

Eight crime scene witnesses have been identified who saw the assailant the night of Bobby Lambert's murder. Only one of them, Bernadine Skillern, later identified Mr. Graham as the assailant. None of the others identified Mr. Graham.

Out of the eight eyewitnesses, Ms. Skillern had one of the poorest views of the assailant. She testified that she had a frontal view of the assailant's face for only two or three seconds, at night, from a distance of 30 to 40 feet.

Problems With The Identification: Nearly two weeks after the crime, Bernadine Skillern could not pick Gary's picture out of a photo line-up. She told the officer that "the photo of Gary Graham looked like the suspect [she] saw on the night of the offense except the complexion of the suspect [she] saw was darker and his face thinner." She said she could not say that the man in the photo was the suspect.

The day after she saw Mr. Graham in a photo array, Ms. Skillern saw Mr. Graham again in a live lineup. He was the only person who had been in both a photo array and the lineup, and not surprisingly, she picked out Mr. Graham. She candidly admitted to the police that she had seen him in the photo array the night before. There Is No Physical Evidence Linking Graham To The Crime!

Weapon: Mr. Graham was arrested with a .22 caliber pistol a week after the murder. The victim of the murder, was killed with a .22 caliber pistol. The police firearms examiner determined that Mr. Graham's weapon could not have fired the fatal bullet. No Other Evidence: There are no fingerprints, ballistics or informant information linking Mr. Graham to the murder. Only the word of a single eyewitness that saw the assailant's face for two or three seconds at night from a distance.

Other Eyewitnesses Say It Was Not Gary Graham That Killed Bobby Lambert! One of the eyewitnesses was standing in the supermarket checkout line next to the killer. She undoubtedly had the best look at the person. She emphatically says that Gary Graham is the wrong man.

At trial she was never asked if Gary Graham was the suspect. Eyewitness Ronald Hubbard saw the same live lineup with Bernadine Skillern and did not see the person he recalled as the assailant in the lineup. Of the six living crime scene witnesses other than Ms. Skillern, all describe the assailant as shorter than Bobby Lambert, who was 5'6". Mr. Graham was 5'9".

Mr. Graham's Trial Lawyers Thought He Was Guilty And Conducted No Pre-Trial Investigation! Graham had a court appointed lawyer, who failed to investigate his case.

This lawyer has since admitted that he believed Graham was guilty and therefore did nothing to find proof otherwise. None of the other witnesses were called on to testify, and no investigation was done into the lack of physical evidence. Bush has already indicated that he would not grant clemency to Gary Graham.

Graham Has Been Close To Execution Five Times And Time Is Running Very Short! His execution has been stayed each time. Despite this, Graham still has not had a new trial in which the substantial evidence of his innocence could be introduced.

The denial of a new trial at the state and federal level has been based on a Texas rule which bars court review on any evidence of innocence brought forward more than 30 days after the trial conviction. Graham's current lawyers started looking at his case 12 years after his conviction. His appeals have also been hampered by the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which greatly restricts federal appeals by death row inmates.

Graham's appeals are exhausted. His lawyers have filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. This writ is currently pending. If this is denied, only Governor George W. Bush and the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which he appoints, stand between Graham and state murder.

A large and vocal movement is the only thing that can make a difference. We need people to get involved in activism around this case, and to do everything possible to let the state of Texas know that they can't execute an innocent man.


Gary Graham was sent to death row for shooting Bobby Grant Lambert in a grocery-store parking lot at the age of 17. Graham, who committed 9 aggravated robberies in May 1981, was arrested after falling asleep in the course of a robbery & rape. Several of his crimes involved guns & the threat of violence.

From the start Graham admitted to the robberies, but he has steadfastly denied involvement in Lambert's murder. The chief evidence against him came from the eyewitness testimony of Bernadine Skillern, an African-American elementary school clerk who had witnessed the shooting, chased the suspect, & fingered him despite her opposition to the death penalty. To this day Skillern stands by her identification.

Then in 1988, four witnesses came forward to say that Graham had been with them on the night the murder occurred. Other holes in the state's case were found & challenged. In 1993 Graham began to correspond with a woman in California, who publicized his case & enlisted the support of a number of celebrities. His age, his race, & the possibility that he was railroaded at trial have postponed Graham's execution several times.

A man was to be executed 7 days hence. Gary Graham's attorneys had found witnesses for his alibi, to corroborate his claim that he was not the perpetrator. The Texas Resource Center had heard of our project, & wanted me to photograph their client to support their final pleas to the pardons board & Governor Ann Richards.

I had been trying to get into Texas prisons for a long time, but to no avail. In fact, I had requested permission to visit 6 other inmates, & was hoping to go down for 2 days & photograph as many of them as time would permit-a tall order for any death row, but especially the black hole of Texas.

I wanted to meet each inmate individually, with no glass, wire, or other restraints between us. I had just 3 days to make it happen: the Friday prior to the execution date was my only window of opportunity.

Gary Graham had a history of rebelling against his jailers; he had been a dangerous juvenile when he was arrested. Totally out of control then, he has now accepted the fact that he may become a martyr in a fight to abolish the death penalty.

"But most of the people that I deal with, they realize that we are basically fighting a war here. And, unfortunately, in wars you are going to have casualities. And we all recognize that we may...I may be a casuality of the system...."

By the time we met him, Gary had been protesting his innocence for 12 years. He had even had to argue with his current lawyer, to convince him that his innocence should be used as his defense.

"...We had a big fight because his main concern was dealing with the mitigation issue. And I'm saying, 'I'm innocent. Let's work on the innocent question.' But he didn't have much faith in that. And I could tell that in dealing with him....So I had to fight with him. And we had some serious fights. And eventually he began to piece by piece go back & look at the puzzle & investigate the puzzle & was able to uncover substantial evidence proving my innocence that we're really working on right now."

But Gary's case illustrates the principle that innocence is no defense. That is to say, 14 years after his conviction, the question of his innocence is subordinate to legal procedure. Under Texas law, appeals are limited; if evidence is brought to light too late, an innocent prisoner can be executed under the statute of limitations.

Though race & social class affect who is sentenced to death, probably the most significant factor is inadequate legal defense at trial. Witnesses who could verify that Gary was not the murderer were never called to testify. Like the majority of criminals who are subject to the death penalty, he was unable to pay for adequate legal representation, so the court appointed his lawyer. Because a court-appointed defense is often substandard and underfinanced, death sentences are often overturned on appeal. Nearly a third of those sentenced to death in the United States over the last two decades have had their sentences reduced to a prison term.

I was talking to a man just days before his scheduled death. I was nervous about treading on sacred ground. Did we have any right to be with him during his final days? But Gary had rehearsed the end of his life so many times, he was unfazed. Despite his burden, he remained calm and deliberate as I tentatively worked around him. He was in charge of his emotions; it shows in the photographs.

Days later Gary received a stay of execution. His case continues to perplex the appellate courts.


The Trial of Gary Graham: 1981

Defendant: Gary Lee Graham

Crime Charged:

Chief Defense Lawyers:
Ronald G. Mock, Douglas M. O'Brien, and Chester Lash Thornton; on appeals: Richard Burr, Douglas M. O'Brien, Robert C. Owen, Michael E. Tygar, Mandy Welch, Jack B. Zimmermann

Chief Prosecutors:
John H. Holmes, Jr.; on appeals: Dan Morales

James Richard Travathan

Houston, Texas

Date of Trial:
October 30, 1981



SIGNIFICANCE: Experts on capital criminal trials saw several compelling questions raised by the Gary Graham case, including: Should a jury consider a murderer's youth and background as a mitigating factor that justifies a life sentence rather than execution? Should a governor be empowered to grant more than one stay of execution pending further review? Should a "30-day rule" prohibiting the introduction of new evidence more than one month after a conviction be revoked? Why does Texas perform nearly twice as many executions as other states?

On May 20, 1981, police of Houston, Texas, were called to the home of 57year-old Lisa Blackburn. They found her holding a. 22-caliber handgun she had taken from 17-year-old Gary Graham, who was asleep in her bedroom. Over five hours, she told them, he had collected her valuables, which were piled by her front door, raped her at gunpoint, and threatened to kill her. He had fallen asleep, she said, "So I took his gun, took his clothes, and called the police."

Arrested, Graham admitted that he had recently committed 10 aggravated robberies, pistol-whipping two victims, shooting one in the neck, and striking one with an automobile after stealing it from him. Graham's background, the police found, included a number of petty offenses. The child of an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother, he was a semi-illiterate seventh-grade dropout who had fathered children when he was 15 and 17.

Witness Identifies Murderer

The police were then investigating the murder, two weeks earlier, of Bobby Grant Lambert, who had been killed by a. 22-caliber bullet in the parking lot of a Safeway supermarket during a robbery attempt at 9:30 P.M. Lambert was a known drug trafficker from Tucson, Arizona, who had a criminal record; $6,000 in cash had been found in his pocket.

One witness of that murder, Bernadine Skillern, who had glimpsed the killer from 40 feet away in the darkened parking lot and who had described him to a police sketch artist, now was shown Gary Graham's picture in a photo lineup. She could not positively identify him. Next day, viewing a live lineup, she identified Graham.

Charged with killing Lambert, Graham pled guilty to the 10 counts of robbery, but denied the murder.

Attorney Ronald G. Mock was appointed by the court to defend Graham. Mock was well known in Harris County, Texas, for his availability to represent indigent clients. While the legal community knew that he had been reprimanded or suspended by the bar a number of times, it also knew that he frequently accepted cases turned down by other attorneys. His record—75 percent of his capital case clients went to death row—was the same as the sentencing record of juries in Harris County.

The One-day Trial

As the trial opened before Judge James R. Travathan on October 30, 1981, prosecutor Johnny Holmes described the arrest of Graham and showed the jury his gun. He did not, however, tell the jury that ballistics tests by Houston police had proved that that gun had not fired the bullets that killed Lambert. Mock, in his opening, did not call attention to that fact or note that neither the gun nor any other physical evidence that could link Graham to the crime had been formally presented. Observers later theorized that Mock was avoiding the fact that Graham had nine other weapons.

The prosecution called several witnesses. Wilma Amos testified that lighting in the parking lot "was good." Daniel Grady, Ron Hubbard, Leodis Wilkerson, and Amos described the shooter they saw as medium height—roughly 5′5″ to 5′9″—but could not identify him as Graham.

Lisa Blackburn, the rape victim who brought about Graham's arrest, testified that he told her, "I have already killed three people and I'm going to kill you," and "I don't have nothing to lose. If I get caught, I burn, and I'm not getting caught." The defense failed to argue that her testimony should be disallowed because no charge of rape had been brought against the defendant.

Another prosecution witness, Richard Carter, Jr., described how Graham, in an earlier robbery, forced him to kneel, put a shotgun barrel in his mouth, and threatened, "I'll kill you. Blowing away another white m----- f----- don't mean nothing to me."

The prosecution introduced Bernadine Skillern. She described how she was sitting in her parked car in the supermarket parking lot at night when she saw a man wearing a white jacket and dark trousers shoot Lambert. She saw the killer, she testified, "full-face" three times, for two to three seconds each, and watched him for a minute or more at distances ranging from 10 to 40 feet. Her further testimony told how she reviewed police photos and picked Graham out of the lineup.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Mock questioned witness Skillern extensively on her angle of sight from her car, on the adequacy of the lighting in the parking lot, and on the length of time she saw the shooter. The light was bright enough and the time was long enough, she insisted, for her to make the positive identification later. The cross-examination testimony ran to 36 pages, yet, said Mock afterward, "I couldn't even get her to flicker."

Mock rested the defense case without calling the defendant or any witnesses. The guilt phase of the trial ended on the day it started. And on the same day, the jury found Graham guilty of capital murder. The sentence was execution.

20 Years Of Appeals

Over the next 20 years, the Gary Graham case and its appeals gained nationwide fame. Among organizations that provided legal assistance and other support were: the Texas Appellate Practice and Educational Resource Center, Inc., which provides direct representation for a limited number of death-row inmates; Amnesty International, which organizes worldwide rallies; the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty; and the Texas Conference of Churches. Hollywood stars, including Danny Glover, Ed Asner, and Mike Farrell, led public appeals. Several Gary Graham Coalitions and legal defense committees were organized.

At a 1987 hearing on Graham's petition for a writ of habeas corpus on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, District Judge Donald Shipley deemed the affidavits of four alibi witnesses, who had come forward some years after the crime, as not credible.

In January 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 against considering the Graham case on the basis of mitigating evidence of his youth and troubled background. It remanded the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, which concluded that the jury that sentenced Graham to death had not had an opportunity to consider the facts that suggested a lesser sentence. In January 1992, however, the Fifth Circuit reinstated the death sentence. A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court again denied an appeal.

On April 28, 1993, Texas governor Ann Richards granted Graham a 30-day stay of execution only hours before he was to die. By law, the governor was allowed to grant only one such stay. A new execution date, June 3, was set.

On June 2, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals unanimously granted a new stay, pending the outcome of another Supreme Court case involving the mitigating factor of a youthful defendant's age. In this appeal, Graham's attorneys argued that, while new evidence—the discovery of alibi witnesses—had come to light, it could not be introduced because Texas law demanded its presentation within 30 days of conviction.

August 16 brought another stay from the Court of Criminal Appeals less than six hours before Graham was scheduled to die by lethal injection.

The following April, the same court ruled that Graham was entitled to a hearing on his claim of new testimony from witnesses who had not appeared at the trial. Hearings and pleas for clemency continued well into 2000. By then, Graham's case had been before the U.S. Supreme Court four times, and he had seen 33 judicial or executive reviews and seven stays of execution.

On June 22, 2000, after the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 12 to 5 to reject a request for clemency, Gary Graham was executed. The case created a brief stir in the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign by focusing criticism on the high number of executions in Texas under Republican Governor George W. Bush, who was running for and would eventually win the presidency. Bush and his supporters, however, largely deflected any criticism by pointing out that under Texas law the governor followed the recommendations of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Bernard Ryan, Jr.



168 F.3d 762

Gary Graham, Now Known as Shaka Sankofa, Petitioner-Appellant,
Gary L. Johnson, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
Institutional Division, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 99-20014

Federal Circuits, 5th Cir.

February 26, 1999

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before KING, Chief Judge, and JOLLY and DeMOSS, Circuit Judges.

KING, Chief Judge:

Gary Graham, now known as Shaka Sankofa,1 a Texas death row inmate, appeals the district court's dismissal of his fourth habeas corpus application under 28 U.S.C. 2254. Alternatively, he moves for the recall of the mandate in one of his prior habeas cases or for an order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(C) authorizing the district court to consider a successive habeas corpus petition. We previously denied this last motion in an order entered February 8, 1999, in which we noted that we would rule on the other two pleadings and issue a full opinion explaining our decision in all three matters as soon as possible. We now do so.

Graham's current application for a writ of habeas corpus is successive to a previous petition he filed in 1988 that was fully litigated on the merits and, in fact, was twice considered by the Supreme Court. In 1996, more than two years before Graham brought this application, Congress passed a new law, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), that was specifically designed to limit and, in some cases, completely bar successive applications such as Graham's. Not only did AEDPA itself impose stringent restrictions on successive habeas applications, but the House Conference Report accompanying it explicitly stated that it incorporated "reforms to curb the abuse of the statutory writ of habeas corpus, and to address the acute problems of unnecessary delay and abuse in capital cases." Graham concedes that all of the claims he makes today could have been raised in 1988 and that if AEDPA governs his current application, he is entitled to no relief whatsoever. Thus, our task is to determine whether AEDPA applies to him. We conclude that it does. Accordingly, we must affirm the judgment of the district court dismissing Graham's fourth federal habeas application and deny his motion for recall of the mandate in his previous habeas case.


This appeal and the accompanying alternative motions are the latest installments of a story that began nearly eighteen years ago. About 9:30 p.m. on May 13, 1981, in the parking lot of a Safeway Food Store in Houston, Texas, Bobby Lambert, a customer at the store, was shot and killed by a lone black male who apparently was trying to rob him. The perpetrator left the scene without being apprehended. After his arrest for another offense about a week later, Gary Graham, then seventeen years old, was charged with the capital murder of Lambert.

At trial in the 182nd Judicial District of Harris County, Texas, Bernadine Skillern was the only witness to identify Graham as Lambert's killer; two other eyewitnesses, Wilma Amos and Daniel Grady, were unable to do so because they did not get a good enough look at, or did not sufficiently recall, the perpetrator's face. Immediately before Skillern testified that Graham was the shooter, the trial judge conducted a hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine whether her identification was "tainted by [an] illegal lineup." Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263, 272, 87 S.Ct. 1951, 18 L.Ed.2d 1178 (1967) (citing United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 240, 87 S.Ct. 1926, 18 L.Ed.2d 1149 (1967)).

Skillern described in some detail how she had picked Graham out of a May 26, 1981 photographic display and a May 27, 1981 police station lineup, and defense counsel raised many of the same issues regarding suggestive identification procedures that Graham's current counsel now brings before us. The trial judge concluded that Skillern's identification was "based solely on [Skillern's] independent recollection of the facts as they occurred on May 13, 1981" and was "made independently of any conversation or processes that were performed by members of the Houston Police Department." The jury then returned, and Skillern testified in open court that Graham was the person she had seen shoot Lambert. Defense counsel presented no evidence at the guilt-innocence stage. The jury convicted Graham of capital murder and answered the three death penalty special issues2 in the affirmative.3 Accordingly, the court sentenced Graham to death. On direct appeal, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Graham's capital murder conviction and death sentence in an unpublished opinion. See Graham v. State, 671 S.W.2d 529 (Tex.Crim.App. 1984) (unpublished table decision). Graham did not seek certiorari from the United States Supreme Court.

Instead, represented by new counsel, Graham filed a state habeas petition in July 1987, contending, inter alia, that he was incompetent and therefore could not constitutionally be executed, that the Texas capital punishment scheme was constitutionally defective for various reasons and did not allow the jury adequately to consider mitigating evidence, including youth, and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Counsel was alleged to be ineffective in numerous respects, including failing adequately to investigate, interview, and call alibi witnesses and not allowing Graham to testify.

Graham's petition was supported by an affidavit signed by Dorothy Shields, William Chambers, Mary Brown, and Loraine Johnson4 asserting that Graham had been with them continuously during the night of the offense, that Graham had told them that he had given their names to his trial counsel, that counsel did not call them to testify, and that Graham later informed them that counsel not only had refused to call alibi witnesses but also had prevented him from testifying on his own behalf. State district judge Donald Shipley, who had not presided at Graham's trial, held competency and evidentiary hearings. At the latter, Graham, three alibi witnesses (William Chambers, Mary Brown, and Dinah Miller), and Graham's trial counsel (Ronald Mock and Chester Thornton), testified. On February 9, 1988, Judge Shipley entered findings of fact and conclusions of law adverse in all respects to Graham. With respect to the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, he found:

4. Prior to trial, counsel [who had been appointed to represent Graham on June 12, 1981] reviewed the information in the State's file several times.

5. On numerous occasions prior to trial, counsel met with the applicant and attempted to discuss the facts of the case with him. The applicant stated only that he did not commit the robbery-murder and that he had spent the evening with a girlfriend whose name, appearance, and address the applicant could not remember.

6. Although defense counsel made numerous inquiries of applicant, he did not give his defense counsel where he had been and what he had been doing on the night of the instant offense, May 13, 1981.

7. No person ever presented himself to defense counsel as an alibi witness, either before, during or after trial.

8. Specifically, the applicant did not furnish his counsel with the names or addresses of Dorothy Shield [sic], William Chambers, Mary Brown, or Lorain [sic] Johnson as potential alibi witnesses.

9. This court finds that the testimony of William Chambers, Mary Brown, and Dinah Miller concerning Gary Graham's whereabouts on May 13, 1981 is not credible testimony.

10. Gary Graham was aware that an investigator was working with defense counsel in connection with the defense of his case.

11. Counsel for applicant hired an investigator, Merv West, who assisted them in investigating and interviewing possible defense witnesses.

Ex parte Graham, No. 335378-A (182d Dist.Ct., Harris County, Tex. Feb. 9, 1988). The state habeas trial court concluded that Graham had received effective assistance of counsel and recommended that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals deny habeas relief. The Court of Criminal Appeals did so in an unpublished per curiam order with reasons issued February 19, 1988.

Shortly thereafter, Graham, through new counsel, filed a federal habeas application in the Southern District of Texas. In addition to challenging the racial and age composition of the grand jury that indicted him, the constitutionality of the Texas death penalty statute as applied to him, and his own competency to be executed, Graham asserted that he was denied the effective assistance of trial counsel. Specifically, he claimed that counsel failed adequately to investigate his case and introduce defense witnesses at trial. Although he told them of at least four alibi witnesses, Graham asserted, counsel neither interviewed nor called these individuals to testify. Graham also complained that counsel refused to permit him to testify, failed to obtain an independent psychiatric evaluation, did not object to the exclusion of certain jurors, allowed him to be tried in the same clothes he was wearing when arrested, concealed counsel Ronald Mock's personal acquaintance with chief prosecution witness Skillern, neglected adequately to investigate the extraneous offenses introduced against him at the punishment phase of his trial, and called only two punishment phase witnesses on his behalf. Without holding an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied relief, see Graham v. Lynaugh, No. 88-563 (S.D.Tex. Feb. 24, 1988), and the Fifth Circuit declined to issue a certificate of probable cause, see Graham v. Lynaugh, 854 F.2d 715, 723 (5th Cir.1988). The court of appeals panel specifically reviewed the ineffective assistance of counsel allegations and the state habeas court findings in respect thereto, concluding that "Graham has failed to overcome the presumption that the state court's findings were correct." Id. at 722.

In a per curiam order, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, vacated the Fifth Circuit's judgment, and remanded "for further consideration in light of Penry v. Lynaugh [, 492 U.S. 302, 109 S.Ct. 2934, 106 L.Ed.2d 256 (1989) ]." Graham v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 915 , 109 S.Ct. 3237, 106 L.Ed.2d 585 (1989). On remand, the same Fifth Circuit panel reinstated, in Part I of its new opinion, all of its 1988 opinion except Section II.B, which dealt with whether the Texas capital sentencing scheme allowed adequate consideration of mitigating evidence, especially youth. See Graham v. Collins, 896 F.2d 893, 894 (5th Cir.1990). The panel went on to hold that the Texas capital sentencing scheme, contrary to Penry, did not allow adequate consideration of Graham's youth and accordingly vacated his death sentence. See id. at 898. The Fifth Circuit then took the case en banc and ultimately affirmed the denial of habeas relief. See Graham v. Collins, 950 F.2d 1009, 1034 (5th Cir.1992). The en banc court explicitly approved Part I of the 1990 panel opinion, thus reinstating all of the 1988 panel opinion except Section II.B thereof, including the earlier panel findings that Graham's ineffective assistance of counsel claim lacked merit. See id. at 1013 n. 4. It reversed the 1990 panel's conclusion that the Texas capital sentencing scheme did not allow adequate consideration of Graham's mitigating evidence, particularly his youth. See id. at 1030-34. The Supreme Court affirmed, addressing only the youth-Penry issue and holding that any claim that the Texas capital sentencing scheme did not allow adequate consideration of youth was barred under Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989). See Graham v. Collins, 506 U.S. 461 , 477-78, 113 S.Ct. 892, 122 L.Ed.2d 260 (1993).

On April 20, 1993, Graham, through counsel, filed his second state habeas petition. Again, he urged that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to develop or present defense evidence or meaningfully test the prosecution's evidence, and that he thus had been "condemned to die for a crime that he almost certainly did not commit." Graham also asserted that the trial court's voir dire erroneously equated "deliberateness," as used in the first death penalty special issue, with "intent" as relevant to guilt or innocence. Finally, he contended that the special issues did not allow adequate consideration of his youth.5

The ineffective assistance claim was supported by new evidence purporting to prove that a number of eyewitnesses whom Graham's counsel had not called during trial would have provided testimony tending to exonerate Graham. This new evidence consisted of the following:

1. A March 31, 1993 affidavit of the investigator, Mervyn West, retained by Graham's trial counsel, indicating that he and counsel had assumed Graham was guilty and therefore gave his case relatively little attention;

2. April 17, 1993 affidavits of Malcolm Stephens and his wife, Lorna Stephens, stating that they had come on the crime scene just after the shooting and had seen a young black man run away (not followed in the parking lot by anyone in a car, as Skillern had testified that she had done), and that the man was about 5' 5"' tall (a lineup chart showed Graham to be 5' 9"');

3. An April 15, 1993 affidavit of Wilma Amos, who had been present at the crime scene, stating that the shooter was no taller than 5' 5"', that no one followed him in a car, that defense counsel never contacted her, and that she had examined two photographs of Graham as he appeared in 1981 and was "certain that Gary Graham is not the man who shot Bobby Lambert";

4. An April 15, 1993 affidavit of Ronald Hubbard, a Safeway employee who also had been present at the scene, describing the shooter as 5' 6"' and indicating that no one associated with Graham's defense team ever contacted him;

5. An April 18, 1993 affidavit of Mary Brown indicating that she had been with Graham on the night of the offense;

6. An April 18, 1993 affidavit of William Chambers indicating that he had been with Graham on the night of the offense;

7. An April 18, 1993 affidavit of Dorothy Shields indicating that she had been with Graham for most of the night of the offense; and

8. An April 18, 1993 affidavit of Loraine Johnson indicating that she had been with Graham on the night of the offense and that she had spoken to trial counsel about testifying to an alibi defense but had been rebuffed.

Graham supplemented his petition on April 26, 1993, adding a claim under Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 113 S.Ct. 853, 122 L.Ed.2d 203 (1993), that because he was actually innocent his execution would be unconstitutional. This supplement was supported by an April 26, 1993 affidavit of Malcolm Stephens stating that, after seeing news coverage of Graham's case, he had realized that Graham was not the person who had run in front of his car in the Safeway parking lot and stating that he saw the true murderer several times in 1982, 1983, and 1985. The state filed a reply, supported by an April 21, 1993 affidavit from trial counsel Ronald Mock, an April 22, 1993 affidavit from Mervyn West, and a March 26, 1993 affidavit from Bernadine Skillern. Later that same day, the state habeas trial court, Judge Shipley, without holding an evidentiary hearing, entered findings and conclusions, plus supplemental findings, recommending that the Court of Criminal Appeals deny relief. The trial court adopted its February 9, 1988 findings and conclusions regarding Graham's first state habeas petition. In addition, it found that the new 1993 affidavits from Chambers, Brown, Shields, and Loraine Johnson were "not credible," that in light of his April 22, 1993 affidavit showing loss of memory, West's March 31, 1993 affidavit was "not reliable," that Amos's 1993 affidavit was "not credible," that Hubbard and the Stephenses did not see the actual shooting and that their affidavits therefore did not undermine Skillern's identification, and that Skillern's testimony was credible. The court concluded that Graham's ineffective assistance of counsel claim had been rejected in the previous state habeas proceeding and hence need not be considered again. Alternatively, it found that Graham had shown neither defective performance nor any resultant prejudice. Finally, the court concluded that a claim of actual innocence independent of constitutional infirmity at trial was not cognizable in habeas proceedings and that even if it were, Graham fell far short of the showing necessary to trigger consideration of such a claim. On April 27, 1993, in a per curiam order, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied habeas relief. See Ex parte Graham, 853 S.W.2d 564 (Tex.Crim.App.1993). Graham filed both a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court, which was denied, see Graham v. Texas, 508 U.S. 945 , 113 S.Ct. 2431, 124 L.Ed.2d 651 (1993), and a motion for reconsideration, which the Court of Criminal Appeals overruled, see Ex parte Graham, 853 S.W.2d 565, 566 (Tex.Crim.App.1993). Nevertheless, the latter ordered Graham's execution stayed for thirty days pending the Supreme Court's resolution of Johnson v. Texas, 506 U.S. 1090 , 113 S.Ct. 1148, 122 L.Ed.2d 499 (1993) (granting certiorari). See Graham, 853 S.W.2d at 566-67.

On April 28, 1993, immediately after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief on his second state habeas petition, Graham filed a second federal habeas application in the Southern District of Texas asserting that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. He voluntarily dismissed it that same day, after Governor Ann Richards granted a thirty-day stay in connection with executive clemency proceedings.

On June 24, 1993, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Johnson v. Texas, 509 U.S. 350, 113 S.Ct. 2658, 125 L.Ed.2d 290 (1993), holding that the Texas capital sentencing scheme adequately allowed consideration of the defendant's youth as a mitigating factor. See id. at 353, 113 S.Ct. 2658. Graham then filed in the Court of Criminal Appeals a motion to continue the stay of execution and for remand to the state trial court for an evidentiary hearing on his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, based on evidence discovered after the second state habeas proceeding. In a per curiam order issued July 5, 1993, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the motion to continue the stay and the motion for remand without prejudice. The state then set Graham's execution for August 17, 1993.

On July 21, 1993, Graham filed a civil suit against the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (TBPP) seeking an evidentiary hearing before that body on his innocence-based clemency request. After a hearing, the Travis County state district court issued a temporary injunction requiring the TBPP to hold a hearing on Graham's claim of innocence by August 10, 1993 or, in lieu thereof, to reschedule his execution until after such a hearing. The TBPP did not hold a hearing, but instead filed a notice of appeal to the state court of appeals in Austin, which operated to supersede the trial court's order. On August 13, 1993, the Austin Court of Appeals, on Graham's motion, enjoined his execution pending resolution of the TBPP's appeal. Three days later, the Court of Criminal Appeals, on Graham's motion, stayed his execution "pending further orders by the Court." On the same day, the Court of Criminal Appeals also denied motions, filed by the district attorney of Harris County and the TBPP, for leave to file with the Court of Criminal Appeals applications for mandamus to require the Austin Court of Appeals to vacate its injunction prohibiting Graham's execution. See State ex rel. Holmes v. Third Court of Appeals, 860 S.W.2d 873, 873 (Tex.Crim.App.1993). On November 9, 1993, however, the court sua sponte reconsidered its denial of leave to file the applications for mandamus, granted leave, and stayed further proceedings in the Austin Court of Appeals. See State ex rel. Holmes v. Honorable Court of Appeals, 885 S.W.2d 386, 386-87 (Tex.Crim.App.1993). Graham, through counsel, then appeared before the Court of Criminal Appeals as the real party in interest. On April 20, 1994, after Graham's appeal of his third federal habeas application had been briefed and argued, see infra, the court conditionally granted the writs, holding that the Austin Court of Appeals had no jurisdiction to enjoin Graham's execution. See State ex rel. Holmes v. Honorable Court of Appeals, 885 S.W.2d 389, 390 (Tex.Crim.App.1994). It also addressed the scope of Graham's available state habeas remedies with respect to his claim that evidence discovered since his conviction demonstrated his actual innocence and decided that habeas corpus is an appropriate vehicle for a prisoner to assert claims of actual innocence:

[W]e hold an applicant seeking habeas relief based on a claim of factual innocence must, as a threshold, demonstrate that the newly discovered evidence, if true, creates a doubt as to the efficacy of the verdict sufficient to undermine confidence in the verdict and that it is probable that the verdict would be different. Once that threshold has been met the habeas court must afford the applicant a forum and opportunity to present his evidence.

... This threshold standard and burden of proof will satisfy the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and we adopt them in the habeas context. If the applicant meets the threshold standard announced above the habeas judge must hold a hearing to determine whether the newly discovered evidence, when considered in light of the entire record before the jury that convicted him, shows that no rational trier of fact could find proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Therefore, we ... hold that, pursuant to Tex.Code Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 11.07, Graham may appropriately couch his claims of factual innocence in the context of a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Id. at 398-99. Notwithstanding this conclusion, the court declined to use the case then before it to resolve Graham's claim because "there is no [habeas] application presently pending before this Court, nor has the trial judge been given the opportunity to prepare findings of fact consistent with art. 11.07 § 3." Id. at 399. It observed, however, that "Graham is free to pursue his claims through the filing of an application under Tex.Code Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 11.07." Id. On June 22, 1994, the Austin Court of Appeals set aside the Travis County district court's temporary injunction against the TBPP, but did not rule on the merits of the controversy. In October, the Travis County district court rendered judgment that Graham was not entitled to a clemency hearing before the TBPP on his actual innocence claim. The Austin Court of Appeals affirmed:[W]e determine that Graham's right to a due course of law hearing on his claim of actual innocence has been satisfied by the habeas corpus procedure fashioned for him by the Court of Criminal Appeals in Holmes. Upon a showing of new evidence that undermines confidence in the jury verdict, Graham will be entitled to an evidentiary hearing in accordance with statutory post-conviction habeas corpus procedures....

... Now that the Court of Criminal Appeals in Holmes has created a judicial vehicle for testing such a claim of actual innocence, we hold that the Texas Constitution does not afford Graham an additional, duplicative hearing within the executive-clemency process.

Graham v. Texas Bd. of Pardons & Paroles, 913 S.W.2d 745, 751 (Tex.App.--Austin 1996, writ dism'd w.o.j.). Graham was thus left with recourse only to the courts.

The day after filing the civil suit against the TBPP, Graham, through counsel, filed a third federal habeas application in the Southern District of Texas. The application asserted only two grounds for relief: first, that Graham was actually innocent of the offense and thus was entitled to relief under the opinions of five justices in Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 113 S.Ct. 853, 122 L.Ed.2d 203 (1993), agreeing that "the execution of an innocent person would violate the Constitution," and second, that he was denied effective assistance of counsel in that his attorneys failed to interview crime scene witnesses named in the police report, investigate and present an alibi defense, properly question witness Amos, and call Hubbard to the stand. Graham also moved for an evidentiary hearing and for leave to undertake discovery.

Graham's application was supported by numerous affidavits and exhibits, many of which he had obtained after the conclusion of his second state habeas proceeding on April 26, 1993 and never had submitted to the state courts. This new material included the following:

1. A July 10, 1993 affidavit of Sherian Etuk, who had been working at the Safeway on the evening of May 13, 1981 and had seen the shooting or its immediate aftermath, describing the perpetrator as a young black man not taller than 5' 6"', with a light build and very narrow face, declaring that Etuk had been shown photographs by the police and that no one had contacted her on behalf of Graham, and stating that none of four pictures of Graham "depict the guy who shot the man out in the parking lot that night";

2. A May 25, 1993 affidavit of crime scene witness Leodis Wilkerson, aged twelve in May 1981, declaring that he was never contacted by anyone on Graham's behalf, describing the shooter as a short, young, clean-shaven black man, and stating that none of three attached photographs of Graham "to the best of my memory looks anything like the man who did the shooting at the Safeway";

3. A June 1, 1993 affidavit of Loraine Johnson providing essentially the same information as her April 18, 1993 affidavit but describing in more detail her attempt to inform Graham's trial counsel of his alibi;

4. A May 1993 affidavit of Vanessa Ford tending to corroborate the alibi portions of Loraine Johnson's June 1, 1993 affidavit;

5. A June 28, 1993 affidavit of Jo Carolyn Johnson corroborating Loraine Johnson's affidavits as to Loraine's informing Graham's trial counsel of Graham's alibi;

6. A Houston Police Department offense report indicating that Lambert was facing federal drug charges in Oklahoma, was carrying three shotguns and a number of false identification cards in his van, and had "fashioned himself as a con man," describing three other suspects in the Lambert murder, who were not investigated further after Graham's arrest, and indicating that there was no evidence except Skillern's identification connecting Graham to the crime, the Safeway, or its neighborhood;7. A July 1993 report by psychologist Elizabeth Loftus concluding that Skillern's identification was likely unreliable;

8. An April 20, 1993 report by another psychologist, Curtis Wills, asserting that "Bernadine Skillern's identification is totally unreliable";

9. A Houston Police Department firearms report dated May 26, 1981, indicating that the .22 caliber pistol Graham had with him when arrested was not the .22 caliber pistol with which Lambert was killed.

On August 6, 1993, the state filed its answer and motion for summary judgment, which waived exhaustion and did not raise the issue of successive or abusive applications. On August 13, 1993, the district court, without any evidentiary hearing, denied Graham's application. See Graham v. Collins, 829 F.Supp. 204, 209-10 (S.D.Tex.1993).

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit declined to accept the state's waiver of exhaustion and remanded the case to the district court. See Graham v. Johnson, 94 F.3d 958, 970-71 (5th Cir.1996). In so doing, it concluded that exhaustion would not be futile, although Texas recently had passed a statute erecting significant barriers to death row inmates' successive habeas applications:6

  (a) If an initial application for a writ of habeas corpus is untimely or if a subsequent application is filed after filing an initial application, a court may not consider the merits of or grant relief based on the subsequent or untimely initial application unless the application contains sufficient specific facts establishing that:

  (1) the current claims and issues have not been and could not have been presented previously in a timely initial application or in a previously considered application filed under this article or Article 11.07 because the factual or legal basis for the claim was unavailable:

  (A) on the date the applicant filed the previous application; or

  (B) if the applicant did not file an initial application, on or before the last date for the timely filing of an initial application;

  (2) by a preponderance of the evidence, but for a violation of the United States Constitution no rational juror could have found the applicant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; or

  (3) by clear and convincing evidence, but for a violation of the United States Constitution no rational juror would have answered in the state's favor one or more of the special issues that were submitted to the jury in the applicant's trial under Article 37.071 or 37.0711.

Tex.Code Crim.Proc.Ann. art. 11.071 § 5(a). Section 5(e) defines an unavailable factual claim as one "not ascertainable through the exercise of reasonable diligence on or before that date." The Fifth Circuit found that these new provisions "appear[ed]" to afford Graham the right to have his claims heard, and noted that, in any case, it was unclear whether article 11.071, enacted while Graham's federal habeas appeal was pending, would apply to him. See Graham, 94 F.3d at 969 n. 20. The court also emphasized that exhaustion was necessary to flesh out the record:

The issues in this case are almost exclusively factual, and the relevant factual scenario is complex, highly controverted, and in many respects unresolved. The district court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing. There is a large body of relevant evidence that has not been presented to the state court. It is doubtful that the record before us allows review of the underlying issues on a fully informed basis.

Id. at 970-71.

On remand, on October 11, 1996, the district court dismissed Graham's third federal habeas application for failure to exhaust state remedies. Eighteen months later, on April 27, 1998, Graham filed a third state habeas application, supported by the evidence he previously had presented to the courts and three entirely new affidavits, raising the same two issues as the third federal habeas application. He also added a claim that Texas violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by (1) sentencing him to death for a crime he allegedly committed at the age of seventeen without a pretrial determination that he was sufficiently mature and morally responsible to be tried as an adult and (2) failing to require the full consideration of youth as a mitigating circumstance. On November 18, 1998, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed his application as an abuse of the writ under the new state habeas law. See Ex parte Graham, No. 17,568-05 (Tex.Crim.App. Nov. 18, 1998).

On December 18, 1998, Graham filed his fourth federal habeas application in the Southern District of Texas, raising the same three issues as he had in his third state habeas application. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996), required Graham to obtain permission from the appropriate court of appeals before filing a "second" or "successive" habeas application. See Graham v. Johnson, No. H-98-4241 (S.D.Tex. Jan. 7, 1999). Graham filed motions in the district court for a stay of execution and for a certificate of probable cause or a certificate of appealability. The court granted a certificate of appealability but denied the stay. See Graham v. Johnson, No. H-98-4241 (S.D.Tex. Jan. 8, 1999). Graham then filed in the Fifth Circuit a motion for stay of execution, a notice of appeal from the district court's dismissal of his application, and alternative motions to recall the mandate in the 1996 habeas case or for an order authorizing the district court to consider a successive habeas corpus application. On January 10, 1999, we granted a stay to allow more time to consider the issues presented by the three pleadings, and on February 8, 1999, in keeping with Congress's directive that we rule on such a request within thirty days, see 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(D), we denied Graham's Motion for Order Authorizing District Court to Consider Successive Habeas Petition. We now rule on Graham's appeal and Motion to Recall Mandate in Previous Habeas Case and provide a full opinion explaining our decision in all three matters.


The only issue raised by Graham's appeal, whether AEDPA applies to his current habeas application, is an issue of law that we review de novo. See Kiser v. Johnson, 163 F.3d 326, 326-27 (5th Cir.1999). The two alternative pleadings are properly directed to us, rather than to the district court, in the first instance: The Motion to Recall Mandate in Previous Habeas Case asks us to withdraw our own prior decision, see Calderon v. Thompson, 523 U.S. 538, 118 S.Ct. 1489, 1498, 140 L.Ed.2d 728 (1998) ("[T]he courts of appeals are recognized to have an inherent power to recall their mandates, subject to review for an abuse of discretion."), and the Motion for Order Authorizing District Court to Consider Successive Habeas Petition must be filed in the appropriate court of appeals, see 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A).


A. Appeal of Dismissal

Enacted on April 24, 1996, AEDPA made it significantly harder for prisoners filing second or successive federal habeas applications under 28 U.S.C. 2254 to obtain hearings on the merits of their claims. As amended by AEDPA, 28 U.S.C. 2244(b) provides:

  (b)(1) A claim presented in a second or successive habeas corpus application under section 2254 that was presented in a prior application shall be dismissed.

  (2) A claim presented in a second or successive habeas corpus application under section 2254 that was not presented in a prior application shall be dismissed unless--

  (A) the applicant shows that the claim relies on a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable; or

  (B)(i) the factual predicate for the claim could not have been discovered previously through the exercise of due diligence; and

  (ii) the facts underlying the claim, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.

  (3)(A) Before a second or successive application permitted by this section is filed in the district court, the applicant shall move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application.

  (B) A motion in the court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider a second or successive application shall be determined by a three-judge panel of the court of appeals.

  (C) The court of appeals may authorize the filing of a second or successive application only if it determines that the application makes a prima facie showing that the application satisfies the requirements of this subsection.

  (D) The court of appeals shall grant or deny the authorization to file a second or successive application not later than 30 days after the filing of the motion.

  (E) The grant or denial of an authorization by a court of appeals to file a second or successive application shall not be appealable and shall not be the subject of a petition for rehearing or for a writ of certiorari.

  (4) A district court shall dismiss any claim presented in a second or successive application that the court of appeals has authorized to be filed unless the applicant shows that the claim satisfies the requirements of this section.

28 U.S.C. 2244(b). AEDPA also added a stringent statute of limitations to the federal habeas statute:

  (d)(1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of--

  (A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;

  (B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;

  (C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or

  (D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

  (2) The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.

28 U.S.C. 2244(d).

AEDPA's amendments to the federal habeas statute impact Graham in the following manner. With respect to § 2244(b), Graham concedes in his brief on appeal that his November 1998 application is second or successive to his 1988 application, which was fully adjudicated on the merits.7 Thus, if AEDPA applies to this latest application, he would be required to obtain an order from this court authorizing the district court to consider it. Graham admits that he cannot meet § 2244(b)'s prerequisites for the issuance of such an order. He contends, however, that he need not obtain authorization from this court because AEDPA does not apply to his November 1998 application. This is the crucial issue before us.

1. Is the district court's dismissal of Graham's application appealable?

Before deciding whether AEDPA does, in fact, apply to Graham's application, we pause to consider whether the district court's order dismissing his application for lack of jurisdiction as a result of his failure to comply with 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(C) is appealable. Although neither party has suggested that it is not, we may determine the existence of our own jurisdiction sua sponte. See Thompson v. Betts, 754 F.2d 1243, 1245 (5th Cir.1985).

As a general rule, federal law limits our appellate jurisdiction to reviewing final decisions of the district courts. See 28 U.S.C. 1291. Similarly, the federal habeas corpus statute provides that "[i]n a habeas corpus proceeding ... before a district judge, the final order shall be subject to review, on appeal, by the court of appeals for the circuit in which the proceeding is held." Id. § 2253. A final judgment is one that "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment." Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, 467, 98 S.Ct. 2454, 57 L.Ed.2d 351 (1978) (quoting Catlin v. United States, 324 U.S. 229, 233, 65 S.Ct. 631, 89 L.Ed. 911 (1945)) (internal quotation marks omitted). We have taken a practical approach to determining whether a district court decision meets this standard; a judgment reflecting an intent to dispose of all issues before the court is final. See National Ass'n of Gov't Employees v. City Pub. Serv. Bd., 40 F.3d 698, 705 (5th Cir.1994); Vaughn v. Mobil Oil Exploration & Producing Southeast, Inc., 891 F.2d 1195, 1197 (5th Cir.1990).

Our own court and one of our sister circuits have found dismissals for failure to move for authorization to file a successive application to be appealable final orders. In Spotville v. Cain, 149 F.3d 374, 375 (5th Cir.1998), we reviewed such a dismissal without questioning the existence of jurisdiction. The First Circuit considered an analogous situation in Pratt v. United States, 129 F.3d 54, 57-58 (1st Cir.1997), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 118 S.Ct. 1807, 140 L.Ed.2d 945 (1998), and concluded that it had jurisdiction to consider an appeal from a dismissal of a federal prisoner's successive 28 U.S.C. 2255 motion for failure to obtain the required clearance from the court of appeals.8 Pratt, like Graham, challenged the dismissal on the grounds that AEDPA did not apply to his successive motion. See id. at 57. Under such circumstances, the court determined, he could regain access to the district court and vindicate his theory that AEDPA did not apply to him only by an appeal and a subsequent holding that the district court erred in considering his latest petition under the new statute. See id. The district court's order was therefore final "in the relevant sense" and appealable even though it was without prejudice to Pratt's refiling after obtaining the necessary authorization from the court of appeals. Id. at 57-58. We find this reasoning persuasive and conclude that we have jurisdiction to review the district court's dismissal of Graham's application.

2. Does AEDPA apply by its terms?

We now turn to the merits of Graham's appeal. It appears to us that, on its face, AEDPA applies to Graham's application. The statute was enacted on April 24, 1996, and Graham did not file his current federal habeas application until November 18, 1998. In Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997), the Supreme Court held that "the new provisions of chapter 153 [the chapter of Title 28 of the United States Code containing § 2244 and §§ 2253-2255] generally apply only to cases filed after the Act became effective." We are comforted in our conclusion by the fact that, in Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 655-58, 665, 116 S.Ct. 2333, 135 L.Ed.2d 827 (1996), the Court applied AEDPA to a successive application filed after April 24, 1996 where the first application was filed before that date. It seems equally apparent that § 2244(b)'s restrictions on second or successive habeas applications govern Graham's current application, which he concedes is second or successive within the meaning of the statute.

Graham, however, contends that AEDPA does not govern his most recent federal habeas application. First, he argues that it is not a new application but a continuation of his third application for federal habeas relief, which he filed in July 1993 and which was dismissed without prejudice in October 1996 for failure to exhaust state remedies.9 Because this earlier application was pending on appeal on the date of AEDPA's enactment, he claims, the statute does not apply to it under Lindh. In the alternative, he asserts that there is no indication that Congress intended AEDPA to govern applications in the procedural posture of his own--specifically, where one or more habeas applications were filed before the enactment of the statute and a successive application was filed afterward--and to apply the Act to him would be impermissibly retroactive. We address each of these arguments in turn.

3. Is Graham's application exempt from AEDPA because it is a continuation of an application pending on the date of AEDPA's enactment?

Graham's first argument goes thus: AEDPA does not apply to habeas applications pending on the date of its enactment. See Lindh, 521 U.S. at 336, 117 S.Ct. 2059. A habeas application filed after a previous application was dismissed for non-exhaustion is a "continuation" of the earlier application. In re Gasery, 116 F.3d 1051, 1052 (5th Cir.1997) (per curiam). Therefore, AEDPA does not apply to his November 1998 application because, in the words of Gasery, it is a "continuation" of its 1993 predecessor, which was pending on appeal on the day AEDPA became law.

We think that Graham reads too much into Gasery. Our decision in Gasery does not exempt from AEDPA an application in the same procedural posture as Graham's. Instead, it holds that an application refiled after an earlier application was dismissed without prejudice for failure to exhaust state remedies is not second or successive to that earlier application within the meaning of § 2244(b) as amended by AEDPA. See id. at 1052. In doing so, however, it assumes that AEDPA governs the refiled application.10

Moreover, the Supreme Court's only pronouncement on the relationship under AEDPA of applications refiled after their predecessors have been dismissed without prejudice provides little support for Graham's reading of Gasery. In Stewart v. Martinez-Villareal, 523 U.S. 637, 118 S.Ct. 1618, 140 L.Ed.2d 849 (1998), the habeas applicant was convicted in Arizona state court of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. See id. at 1619. He filed three federal habeas applications, all of which were dismissed on the ground that they contained claims on which state remedies had not yet been exhausted. See id. at 1620. In March 1993, Martinez-Villareal filed a fourth federal habeas application asserting, inter alia, that he was incompetent to be executed under Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399, 409-10, 106 S.Ct. 2595, 91 L.Ed.2d 335 (1986). The district court dismissed the Ford claim as premature. Thereafter, the state obtained a warrant for Martinez-Villareal's execution, and the Arizona courts found him competent to be executed. Martinez-Villareal then moved in federal district court to reopen his Ford claim, and the district court ruled that under § 2244(b), it did not have jurisdiction over a "second or successive" habeas application unless (as Martinez-Villareal had not) the prisoner obtained permission to file such an application from the appropriate court of appeals. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that § 2244(b) does not apply to an application that raises only a competency-to-be-executed claim. See Martinez-Villareal v. Stewart, 118 F.3d 628, 634 (9th Cir.1997), aff'd, 523 U.S. 637, 118 S.Ct. 1618, 140 L.Ed.2d 849 (1998).

In the Supreme Court, the state argued that because Martinez-Villareal already had had one fully litigated habeas petition (in which his Ford claim was found to be premature), § 2244(b) required his new application11 to be treated as successive. The Court held that the new application, based on the Ford claim, was not a "second or successive" application within the meaning of § 2244(b) because it never had been adjudicated on its merits. See 118 S.Ct. at 1622. In that way, it said, a claim dismissed as premature is analogous to one dismissed for failure to exhaust state remedies:

But none of our cases expounding [the non-exhaustion] doctrine have ever suggested that a prisoner whose habeas petition was dismissed for failure to exhaust state remedies, and who then did exhaust those remedies and returned to federal court, was by such action filing a successive petition. A court where such a petition was filed could adjudicate these claims under the same standard as would govern those made in any other first petition.

Id. Graham interprets Martinez-Villareal as holding that the new application was a continuation of the dismissed petition and thus not successive. The opinion provides no direct support for this proposition, however. Rather, the Court held simply that a habeas claim that has not been adjudicated on the merits is not "successive" under AEDPA even if it has been brought before the courts before and dismissed on procedural grounds. Both where a claim is dismissed as premature and for failure to exhaust state remedies, "the habeas petitioner does not receive an adjudication of his claim. To hold otherwise would mean that a dismissal of a first habeas petition for technical procedural reasons would bar the prisoner from ever obtaining federal habeas review." Id. The Court's conclusion provides no indication that the dismissed application should be treated as a continuation of the first so as to preclude the application of AEDPA. To the contrary, the Court applied AEDPA in reaching its result.

Graham could fairly point out that in neither Gasery nor Martinez-Villareal was the dismissed habeas application pending on the date of AEDPA's enactment. That difference, he would argue, compels the conclusion that AEDPA does not apply in his own case even though it did in Gasery and Martinez-Villareal. See Lindh, 521 U.S. at 323-24, 336, 117 S.Ct. 2059 (holding that "the new provisions of chapter 153 generally apply only to cases filed after the Act became effective" and refusing to apply AEDPA to Lindh because his first habeas application was pending in the court of appeals on the date the statute was enacted). To accept that conclusion would create a distinction between applications in an identical procedural posture whose predecessor applications were dismissed only a few days apart. That is, if a prisoner's prior application was dismissed on or before April 23, 1996, AEDPA would govern his "continuation" of this application; if it was dismissed after April 23, 1996, AEDPA would not apply to the "continuation" application. We can see no justification for this disparate result.

As further support for his position that AEDPA does not apply to his current application, Graham argues that federal courts retain an interest in unexhausted habeas suits that they do not in conventional civil suits dismissed without prejudice.12 For this reason, he claims, courts often have held or permitted habeas cases to be held in abeyance pending the exhaustion of state remedies, rather than dismissing them outright. As examples, he points to Burris v. Farley, 51 F.3d 655, 659 (7th Cir.1995); Fetterly v. Paskett, 997 F.2d 1295, 1301-02 (9th Cir.1993); Scott v. Dugger, 891 F.2d 800, 802 (11th Cir.1989); Giarratano v. Procunier, 891 F.2d 483, 485 (4th Cir.1989); Johnson v. Texas, 878 F.2d 904, 906 (5th Cir.1989); Collins v. Lockhart, 754 F.2d 258, 260 (8th Cir.1985); and Chenault v. Stynchcombe, 581 F.2d 444, 448 (5th Cir.1978). Furthermore, Graham insists, we recently made clear in Brewer v. Johnson, 139 F.3d 491, 493 (5th Cir.1998), that district courts may either hold an unexhausted federal habeas application in abeyance or dismiss it without prejudice, subject to review for abuse of discretion. If a federal court can hold an unexhausted habeas case in abeyance rather than dismiss it outright, Graham contends, we should view his third habeas application not as never having been filed, but as stayed pending exhaustion.

Graham misunderstands the law governing unexhausted federal habeas applications. The Supreme Court has held that "a district court must dismiss habeas petitions containing both unexhausted and exhausted claims." Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 522, 102 S.Ct. 1198, 71 L.Ed.2d 379 (1982). Subsequent opinions have interpreted Lundy as requiring the dismissal of an application containing any claims that have not been exhausted in the state courts. See, e.g., Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722 , 731, 111 S.Ct. 2546, 115 L.Ed.2d 640 (1991) ("This Court has long held that a state prisoner's federal habeas petition should be dismissed if the prisoner has not exhausted available state remedies as to any of his federal claims."); Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 349, 109 S.Ct. 1056, 103 L.Ed.2d 380 (1989) ("Respondent's habeas petition should have been dismissed if state remedies had not been exhausted as to any of the federal claims."); Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 124 n. 25, 102 S.Ct. 1558, 71 L.Ed.2d 783 (1982) ("If [an unexhausted due process claim] were present, Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 102 S.Ct. 1198, 71 L.Ed.2d 379 (1982), would mandate dismissal of the entire petition."). Of course, because exhaustion is based on comity rather than jurisdiction, there is no absolute bar to federal consideration of unexhausted habeas applications. See Lundy, 455 U.S. at 515, 102 S.Ct. 1198; Narvaiz v. Johnson, 134 F.3d 688, 693 n. 1 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 118 S.Ct. 2364, 141 L.Ed.2d 731 (1998); Earhart v. Johnson, 132 F.3d 1062, 1065 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 119 S.Ct. 344, 142 L.Ed.2d 283 (1998). Thus, under certain circumstances, a federal court may consider an unexhausted habeas application. See Granberry v. Greer, 481 U.S. 129, 134-35, 107 S.Ct. 1671, 95 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987) (concluding that a federal appellate court may consider an application to which the state raises a non-exhaustion defense for the first time on appeal). Unless the court decides to consider an unexhausted application, however, Lundy dictates that it be dismissed. Indeed, we recognized this principle in Graham, 94 F.3d at 968, when we noted, citing Lundy, that "[t]he exhaustion doctrine, generally codified in section 2254(b) & (c), requires that normally a state prisoner's entire federal habeas petition must be dismissed unless the prisoner's state remedies have been exhausted as to all claims raised in the federal petition" and dismissed Graham's petition because he "presented significant evidentiary support for his claims of actual innocence and ineffective assistance of counsel that was never presented to the state courts," id. at 969.

Moreover, neither the cases Graham cites nor the current practice of the federal courts support the proposition that abatement of an application containing unexhausted claims is generally an acceptable substitute for dismissal. We turn first to Graham's own citations. One of these, Chenault v. Stynchcombe, 581 F.2d 444 (5th Cir.1978), predates Lundy. Burris and Fetterly held fully exhausted habeas applications in abeyance pending exhaustion of other claims that had not yet been presented to the state courts. See Burris, 51 F.3d at 658-59; Fetterly, 997 F.2d at 1297-98; see also Calderon v. United States Dist. Ct., 134 F.3d 981, 987 (9th Cir.) (pointing out that Fetterly involved an application containing only exhausted claims), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 119 S.Ct. 274, 142 L.Ed.2d 226 (1998); Greenawalt v. Stewart, 105 F.3d 1268, 1274 (9th Cir.) (same), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1102 , 117 S.Ct. 794, 136 L.Ed.2d 735 (1997). It is not clear that the district courts in Scott and Giarratano held in abeyance petitions containing unexhausted claims; at any rate, neither appellant challenged the legitimacy of such an action. See Scott, 891 F.2d at 802; Giarratano, 891 F.2d at 485. Lockhart permitted the abatement of an application containing unexhausted claims, but the Eighth Circuit has since rejected its reasoning in that case. See Victor v. Hopkins, 90 F.3d 276, 280-82 (8th Cir.1996). Our own court often has dismissed unexhausted habeas applications rather than hold them in abeyance pending dismissal. See, e.g., Sterling v. Scott, 57 F.3d 451, 454 (5th Cir.1995) (concluding that the district court was required to dismiss the unexhausted application and, citing Coleman, that it did not err in refusing to hold it in abeyance); McGrew v. Texas Bd. of Pardons & Paroles, 47 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir.1995) ("McGrew's allegations reflect that he has not exhausted his state remedies and, therefore, insofar as his complaint can be construed as seeking habeas relief, it must be dismissed for failure to exhaust.");13 Alexander v. Johnson, 163 F.3d 906, 908 (5th Cir.1998) ("A habeas petition containing both exhausted and unexhausted claims is a 'mixed' petition which should be dismissed without prejudice."); Whitehead v. Johnson, 157 F.3d 384, 387 (5th Cir.1998) ("A federal habeas petition should be dismissed if state remedies have not been exhausted as to all of the federal court claims."). It is true, as Graham points out, that in Brewer, 139 F.3d at 493 (5th Cir.1998), we stated, citing Johnson v. Texas, 878 F.2d 904 (5th Cir.1989), that district courts may either hold an unexhausted petition in abeyance or dismiss it without prejudice. In Brewer, however, the prisoner had been appointed counsel, but had not yet filed a federal habeas application, at the time he sought to have his federal proceeding held in abeyance. See 139 F.3d at 492. Thus, despite its citation to Johnson, the court was not squarely confronted with a situation in which a prisoner seeks to abate an application containing unexhausted claims.

Similarly, several other circuits have concluded that district courts should dismiss without prejudice, and not hold in abeyance, habeas applications containing unexhausted claims. See Calderon v. United States Dist. Ct., 144 F.3d 618, 620 (9th Cir.1998) (stating that "a petition with exhausted and unexhausted claims must be dismissed or the unexhausted claims stricken from the petition," but permitting amendment of applications to delete unexhausted claims and holding amended petition containing only exhausted claims in abeyance pending exhaustion of deleted claims); Christy v. Horn, 115 F.3d 201, 206-08 (3d Cir.1997); Victor, 90 F.3d at 280-83; see also Morris v. Bell, 124 F.3d 198, No. 96-5510, 1997 WL 560055, * 2-* 3 (6th Cir. Sept. 5, 1997) (unpublished table decision) (affirming dismissal of federal habeas application for failure to exhaust even where prisoner argued that district court should have abated proceedings so as to prevent application of AEDPA upon post-exhaustion return to federal court), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 118 S.Ct. 1169, 140 L.Ed.2d 179 (1998). Thus, there is no general consensus that dismissing a federal habeas application for non-exhaustion is the equivalent of holding it in abeyance pending exhaustion.

Certainly the Texas courts have acknowledged a fundamental difference between the two. A district court that holds a habeas petition in abeyance but does not dismiss it retains jurisdiction over the case. See Ex parte Powers, 487 S.W.2d 101, 102 (Tex.Crim.App.1972). Therefore, as a matter of comity, the Texas courts will not consider a habeas petition while a federal habeas proceeding concerning the "same matter" or seeking the same relief is presently pending. See May v. Collins, 948 F.2d 162, 169 (5th Cir.1991); Carter v. Estelle, 677 F.2d 427, 435-36 (5th Cir.1982); Ex parte McNeil, 588 S.W.2d 592, 592-93 (Tex.Crim.App.1979); Ex parte Green, 548 S.W.2d 914, 916 (Tex.Crim.App.1977); Powers, 487 S.W.2d at 102. Graham suggests that Texas's habeas abstention doctrine forced the district court to dismiss his application, that, but for the doctrine, it would have held the proceeding in abeyance, and that we should therefore act as though it did so. But he provides no evidence for his contention that the lower court would have held his third federal application in abeyance; indeed, it would not have been justified in so doing even absent the Texas abstention doctrine. Furthermore, Texas's refusal to consider a habeas petition raising the same claims or seeking the same relief as a pending federal application underscore the fact that dismissal and abatement are not the same for all purposes.

Indeed, a contrary conclusion would allow a prisoner to avoid AEDPA (and, inter alia, its statute of limitations) for many years after the passage of the statute. We note that, when Gasery himself returned to the district court after we held that he was not required to seek permission under § 2244(b)(3)(A) to file a new application when his initial application was dismissed for failure to exhaust, the district court found it time-barred under § 2244(d), even though he filed the first, dismissed petition before Congress enacted AEDPA. See Gasery v. Johnson, No. H-97-1685, slip op. (S.D.Tex. Mar. 5, 1998), appeal docketed, No. 98-20221 (5th Cir. Mar. 30, 1998). According to the district court,

if § 2244(d) were interpreted as Petitioner argues, the result would be impractical. A habeas petitioner could file a non-exhausted application in federal court within the limitations period and suffer a dismissal without prejudice. He could then wait decades to exhaust his state court remedies and could also wait decades after exhausting his state remedies before returning to federal court to "continue" his federal remedy, without running afoul of the statute of limitations.

Id. at 5-6. Construing an application filed after a previous application is dismissed without prejudice as a continuation of the first application for all purposes would eviscerate the AEDPA limitations period and thwart one of AEDPA's principal purposes. See 28 U.S.C. 2244(d); H.R.CONF.REP. No. 104-518, at 111 (1996), reprinted in 1996 U.S.C.C.A.N. 944, 944 ("[Title I of AEDPA] incorporates reforms to curb the abuse of the statutory writ of habeas corpus, and to address the acute problems of unnecessary delay and abuse in capital cases. It sets a one year limitation on an application for a habeas writ and revises the procedures for consideration of a writ in federal court."). We decline to do so.

Finally, we must address Graham's argument that this court implicitly held when it dismissed his 1993 application that his current application would not be subject to AEDPA. In his Motion to Recall Mandate in Previous Habeas Appeal, Graham asserts: "The Court's purpose clearly was not to avoid decision of the merits of his claims, to give the new arguments that the merits of Mr. Sankofa's claims should not be decided, or to foreclose review of Mr. Sankofa's claims on the merits." Graham elaborates further in his reply brief:

[The court] viewed [Graham's] case as a pre-AEDPA case, to which the application of the AEDPA was not a material question. There had been a ruling on the merits of the issues in Mr. Sankofa's case in 1993, and the case had been under submission in this Court since the oral argument in March, 1994. The state did not want further exhaustion. In these circumstances, this Court's decision to defer addressing the merits and to require further exhaustion was based wholly on its view that its eventual decision of the merits would be enhanced by any additional resolution of facts that the state courts might undertake....

In these circumstances, it is not only fair, but accurate, to infer that this Court viewed the dismissal for further exhaustion and the eventual return of Mr. Sankofa's case to the federal courts as a continuation of the 1993 habeas proceeding.... Now that the further exhaustion ordered by this Court has occurred, and the state courts have again declined to undertake additional factfinding proceedings, and now that Mr. Sankofa has returned to the federal courts with the same allegations and claims he had in 1993, it is time for this Court to declare explicitly what has been implicit--that the refiling of his federal habeas case in 1998 "is merely a continuation of his ... [1993] collateral attack ...," In re Gasery, 116 F.3d 1051, 1052 (5th Cir.1997), for purposes of whether Mr. Sankofa's 1993 case is still pending and, under Lindh, not subject to the AEDPA.

As with Gasery, we think Graham reads too much into this court's 1996 decision in Graham v. Johnson, 94 F.3d 958 (5th Cir.1996). That opinion declined to accept the state's waiver of exhaustion. See id. at 970-71. Not once did it mention AEDPA or suggest in any way that a post-exhaustion application would be considered under the same standards that prevailed in 1993. While it may be true, as Graham points out, that at approximately the same time, this court applied AEDPA to proceedings pending on the date of the statute's enactment, see Moore v. Johnson, 101 F.3d 1069, 1072-74 (5th Cir.1996) ; Drinkard v. Johnson, 97 F.3d 751, 764-66 (5th Cir.1996), our failure to mention AEDPA in Graham's case cannot be read as implying that it should not apply to him upon his return to federal court. We had no reason to consider AEDPA's impact on Graham, we made no pronouncements as to our views on that topic, and we certainly did not hold that the statute would not apply to a refiled post-exhaustion application.

4. Is AEDPA impermissibly retroactive as applied to Graham's application?

Graham next argues that even if his most recent application is not a continuation of its 1993 predecessor, AEDPA would be impermissibly retroactive as applied to him. Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U.S. 244, 114 S.Ct. 1483, 128 L.Ed.2d 229 (1994), and Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997), must guide our inquiry. Under both these cases, we look first to congressional intent in determining the temporal reach of a statute. In Landgraf, the Court said:

When a case implicates a federal statute enacted after the events in suit, the court's first task is to determine whether Congress has expressly prescribed the statute's proper reach. If Congress has done so, of course, there is no need to resort to judicial default rules. When, however, the statute contains no such express command, the court must determine whether the new statute would have retroactive effect, i.e., whether it would impair rights a party possessed when he acted, increase a party's liability for past conduct, or impose new duties with respect to transactions already completed. If the statute would operate retroactively, our traditional presumption teaches that it does not govern absent clear congressional intent favoring such a result.

511 U.S. at 280, 114 S.Ct. 1483; see Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827, 837, 110 S.Ct. 1570, 108 L.Ed.2d 842 (1990) ("[W]here the congressional intent is clear, it governs."); cf. Lonchar v. Thomas, 517 U.S. 314 , 328, 116 S.Ct. 1293, 134 L.Ed.2d 440 (1996) (criticizing, in a pre-AEDPA regime, the practice of amending a Federal Habeas Corpus Rule "through an ad hoc judicial exception, rather than through congressional legislation or through the formal rulemaking process"). Lindh indicated that despite Landgraf 's language about "express" congressional commands, "in determining a statute's temporal reach generally, our normal rules of construction apply." 521 U.S. at 326, 117 S.Ct. 2059. Thus, the Court concluded, congressional intent may be implied as well as explicit:

Although Landgraf 's default rule would deny application when a retroactive effect would otherwise result, other construction rules may apply to remove even the possibility of retroactivity (as by rendering the statutory provision wholly inapplicable to a particular case), as Lindh argues the recognition of a negative implication would do here.14


When Congress's intent is not clear, however, we employ the default rule against retroactivity, using the analysis laid out in Landgraf to determine whether the statute is genuinely retroactive. Although the Court did not articulate a bright-line test for determining a law's temporal reach in the absence of clear congressional intent, it warned that "[t]he Legislature's unmatched powers allow it to sweep away settled expectations suddenly and without individualized consideration," 511 U.S. at 266, 114 S.Ct. 1483, and observed:

A statute does not operate "retrospectively" merely because it is applied in a case arising from conduct antedating the statute's enactment or upsets expectations based in prior law. Rather, the court must ask whether the new provision attaches new legal consequences to events completed before its enactment. The conclusion that a particular rule operates "retroactively" comes at the end of a process of judgment concerning the nature and extent of the change in the law and the degree of connection between the operation of the new rule and a relevant past event. Any test of retroactivity will leave room for disagreement in hard cases, and is unlikely to classify the enormous variety of legal changes with perfect philosophical clarity. However, retroactivity is a matter on which judges tend to have "sound ... instinct[s]," and familiar considerations of fair notice, reasonable reliance, and settled expectations offer sound guidance.

Id. at 269-70 (emphasis added) (citations and footnote omitted). With these principles in mind, we turn to the question we face today.

a. Congressional Intent

As we observed above, it appears to us that Congress fully intended that AEDPA govern applications such as Graham's. The Second Circuit agrees with us. See Mancuso v. Herbert, 166 F.3d 97, 101 (2d Cir.1999) ("We conclude that the AEDPA applies to a habeas petition filed after the AEDPA's effective date, regardless of when the petitioner filed his or her initial habeas petition and regardless of the grounds for dismissal of such earlier petition.... [T]his holding comports both with the statute's plain meaning and with congressional intent."). Several circuits, while not explicitly holding that AEDPA applies to an application such as Graham's, have evaluated applications in the same procedural posture with reference to AEDPA. See Vancleave v. Norris, 150 F.3d 926, 927 (8th Cir.1998) ("AEDPA's restrictions on successive habeas petitions govern this petition because it was filed two months after the statute's effective date."); Hatch v. Oklahoma, 92 F.3d 1012, 1014 (10th Cir.1996) ("Because the 1996 Act was already in place at the time of Hatch's filing with this Court, the application of the 1996 Act to his case is not retroactive, and thus does not implicate the Ex Post Facto Clause."); cf. Pratt, 129 F.3d at 58 ("Congress intended that AEDPA apply to all section 2255 petitions filed after its effective date (April 24, 1996)."); In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1198 n. 13 (4th Cir.1997) (en banc) (assuming without deciding that AEDPA applies to prisoner who filed his first § 2255 motion before and his second motion after AEDPA's effective date). But see In re Minarik, 166 F.3d 591, 598-99 (3d Cir.1999) ("Based on our reading of Landgraf and Lindh, we join two other courts of appeals in holding that AEDPA contains no unambiguous guidance regarding retroactive application of AEDPA's new 'second or successive' petition standards and procedures to cases in which the first habeas petition was filed before AEDPA's enactment."); cf. United States v. Ortiz, 136 F.3d 161, 165 (D.C.Cir.1998) ("Congress did not expressly indicate whether the AEDPA amendments to the procedures and standards for filing second § 2255 motions are to be applied in cases where the first § 2255 motion was filed before the enactment of AEDPA."); In re Hanserd, 123 F.3d 922, 924 (6th Cir.1997) (same). Nevertheless, even if Congress's intent on this score is not clear, § 2244(b) is not impermissibly retroactive as applied to Graham.

b. AEDPA's New Procedural Requirements

Under Landgraf, the retroactivity analysis may have to be applied separately to discrete parts of AEDPA. See 511 U.S. at 280, 114 S.Ct. 1483 ("[T]here is no special reason to think that all the diverse provisions of the [Civil Rights Act of 1991] must be treated uniformly for [retroactivity] purposes."). Therefore, we first consider AEDPA's new procedural requirement that before filing a second or successive application, the prisoner must move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application. See 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(A). Substituting the court of appeals for the district court as the gatekeeper against abusive or procedurally defaulted claims would seem to raise no retroactivity concerns. A litigant has no reasonable expectation that a particular tribunal will adjudicate his claims. See Landgraf, 511 U.S. at 274, 114 S.Ct. 1483; Vial, 115 F.3d at 1199 (Hall, J., dissenting). Moreover, § 2244(b)(3)(A)'s requirement that a prisoner desiring to file a second or successive habeas application first approach the court of appeals is a purely procedural change that rarely raises retroactivity concerns. See Landgraf, 511 U.S. at 275, 114 S.Ct. 1483; Minarik, 166 F.3d at 599-600. Thus, we conclude that the district court did not err in concluding that Graham was required to obtain an order from us authorizing the district court to consider his current habeas application. See Minarik, 166 F.3d at 599-600; Hanserd, 123 F.3d at 934.

c. AEDPA's New Substantive Standards

We now consider whether applying AEDPA's new substantive standards would have an impermissibly retroactive effect in Graham's case. As a preliminary matter, we note that Graham's situation does not present the typical retroactivity problem because he filed his current application well after AEDPA became law. Nevertheless, Graham contends that § 2244(b) would unfairly devastate his settled expectations and attach new legal consequences to an event--the filing of an unexhausted federal habeas application in 1993--completed before its enactment. In his reply brief, he argues that he relied on pre-AEDPA law in deciding in 1993 to proceed to federal court without having exhausted state remedies:

Mr. Sankofa "relied to ... [a significant] extent on the ... [then existing] federal standards of habeas review [of successive petitions in] making [his] strategic ... decision[ ] during the [1993 state and federal habeas] ... litigation," Drinkard, 97 F.3d at 766, to forego further exhaustion of state remedies. In short, he "relied to his detriment upon the pre-amendment versions of [§ 2244]...." Hunter, 101 F.3d at 1572. Had he known in 1993 when he made this decision that, because of an intervening and wholly unpredictable change in federal law, he would not be able to have his constitutional claims heard at all in federal court in 1998 if the federal courts ordered him to re-exhaust state remedies, indisputably he would not have taken the risk in 1993 that he might be dismissed from federal court for non-exhaustion. Clearly, "he would have proceeded ... differently...." Drinkard, 97 F.3d at 766, by going through what appeared in 1993 to be a futile attempt to obtain relief in state court, if for no other reason than to preserve the right to go back to federal court after the state courts refused to hear his case, which is what eventually happened.

Graham claims to have reasoned that if he was unable to convince the federal courts that exhaustion was futile and the federal court therefore dismissed his application, he would simply would have exhausted his state remedies and, if unsuccessful in state court, would have returned to federal court under the same law as governed his dismissed application. But through no fault of his, he asserts, resolution of his application was delayed for several years. First, the state waived exhaustion; then the Fifth Circuit waited three years before declining to accept the waiver and ordering the dismissal of the application. By this time, a new Texas statute made it considerably more difficult for condemned prisoners to obtain a hearing on the merits of a successive habeas application, and AEDPA created similar hurdles in federal court. Thus, Graham argues, applying AEDPA in this case would attach legal consequences to an act completed before its enactment, as it was wholly unforeseeable in 1993 that the filing of an unexhausted application later would subject Graham to AEDPA's strict limitations on successive applications.

In evaluating Graham's argument, we turn first to Supreme Court case law. As we said above, the Landgraf retroactivity analysis focuses on "familiar considerations of fair notice, reasonable reliance, and settled expectations." 511 U.S. at 270, 114 S.Ct. 1483. The Court noted, for example, that it often had applied a presumption against statutory retroactivity in cases involving contractual or property rights, "matters in which predictability and stability are of prime importance," id. at 271, 114 S.Ct. 1483, and observed further that changes in procedural rules rarely raise retroactivity problems because of "the diminished reliance interests in matters of procedure," id. at 275, 114 S.Ct. 1483.

A number of our fellow courts of appeals, following the high Court's guidance, have analyzed this issue in terms of whether AEDPA bars the successive habeas application of a prisoner who relied on pre-AEDPA law in filing a previous application. We find this approach sensible and correct given that retroactivity is disfavored precisely because it upsets settled expectations; if a litigant in no way relies on existing law, then a change in that law cannot fairly be said to harm him. In Burris v. Parke, 95 F.3d 465 (7th Cir.1996) (en banc), the Seventh Circuit considered whether applying AEDPA to a successive application filed after April 24, 1996 where the prisoner had filed a previous application before that date was impermissibly retroactive. The court concluded that AEDPA did not apply to the second petition because the statute, if applied to the refiled application, would attach a new legal consequence, namely that Burris could not file a second application, to a completed event, the filing of the first petition:

Had Burris foreseen the new law he would in all likelihood have waited, as most prisoners do, until his second sentence was affirmed and then filed a single petition for habeas corpus consolidating his attacks on both the conviction and the sentence. He made a deliberate choice to file two petitions, having no way of knowing (unless gifted with prevision) that the second petition would be subject to a far more stringent test than the test in the existing law, the test of abuse.

Id. at 468 (emphasis added).15 Later court of appeals opinions distinguish Burris on the ground that the prisoners in their own cases had not shown detrimental reliance on pre-AEDPA law. See In re Magwood, 113 F.3d 1544, 1552 (11th Cir.1997) ("The present case, however, is distinguishable from Burris because Petitioner has not relied to his detriment upon pre-AEDPA law."); In re Medina, 109 F.3d 1556, 1563 (11th Cir.1997) (applying AEDPA to a successive habeas application even though a first application had been filed before April 24, 1996 because the prisoner had not shown detrimental reliance on pre-AEDPA law); Roldan v. United States, 96 F.3d 1013, 1014 (7th Cir.1996) (holding in § 2255 case that Burris did not apply because prisoner did not "contend that he withheld issues from his first collateral attack in the belief that the doctrine of abuse of the writ permitted such a step").16

Lindh, which simply concludes that there was clear congressional intent that AEDPA apply only to habeas cases filed after its enactment, overrules neither the result nor the analysis of Burris and its progeny. Indeed, several post-Lindh courts have reaffirmed the detrimental reliance approach to retroactivity problems where two habeas applications straddle the Act's effective date. In Alexander v. United States, 121 F.3d 312 (7th Cir.1997), the Seventh Circuit applied AEDPA to a § 2255 motion in the same procedural posture as Graham's current habeas application because the prisoner could not show that he had relied on pre-AEDPA law in litigating his previous § 2255 motions. Anthony Alexander filed his first collateral attack on his criminal conviction before AEDPA became law. See id. at 313. He then filed at least two additional motions after April 24, 1996; despite this, he claimed that AEDPA did not apply to him. See id. at 313-14. The Seventh Circuit noted that "Alexander made that contention in his last application, and we rejected it." Id. at 314. It then quoted from a previous unpublished order:

Alexander argues that, under Burris v. Parke, 95 F.3d 465 (7th Cir.1996) (en banc), he need not satisfy the statutory standard, because his first collateral attack predated the AEDPA. This contention was resolved adversely to him when he filed his second collateral attack. We observed then, and reiterate now, that the new law applies because Alexander has not furnished any evidence that, when omitting issues from his first collateral attack, [begun] in 1995, Alexander relied on a plausible belief that the approach then governing--the "abuse of the writ" doctrine detailed in McCleskey v. Zant, 499 U.S. 467, 111 S.Ct. 1454, 113 L.Ed.2d 517 (1991)--would have permitted a successive collateral attack.

Id. (quoting Alexander v. United States, No. 96-9063 (7th Cir. June 4, 1997) (unpublished order)). Moreover, the First Circuit has concluded that even when a prisoner subjectively relies to his detriment on pre-AEDPA law, he is exempt from the new statute only if his reliance was reasonable. See Pratt, 129 F.3d at 59 (noting that "reliance upon pre-AEDPA law as a basis for permitting a second petition rarely will [be objectively reasonable]" because "[t]he 'cause and prejudice' test that McCleskey imposed to screen out abusive deployments of the writ is notoriously difficult to pass" and "Pratt cannot satisfy its rigors").

The Sixth Circuit is the only court of appeals that has explicitly rejected a detrimental reliance analysis. See Hanserd, 123 F.3d at 931. In Hanserd, the state argued that because the prisoner did not "consciously" or "for strategic reasons" omit an issue from his first habeas application, he could not be said to have relied on the pre-AEDPA rule and would have to proceed under AEDPA, if at all. See id. The court held that where AEDPA bars a claim that could have been raised under pre-AEDPA law, it attaches a new adverse legal consequence to an event completed before its enactment and is therefore impermissibly retroactive. See id. According to Hanserd, the detrimental reliance approach is based on an incorrect reading of Landgraf:

The central question in [Landgraf ] was whether the 1991 Amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which provided for compensatory damages in hostile-work-environment suits, should be applied to misconduct that antedated the new law. The Court held that it did not apply, even though the conduct at issue had been unlawful for thirty years before the new law's enactment and could previously have supported an award of damages. The Court did not speculate as to whether the employer had consciously relied on the old law in allowing discrimination against the plaintiff.

Id. (citations and footnote omitted). In the same breath, however, the court said: "Instead, the Court held that the new provision should not be applied because doing so would attach a significant new adverse legal consequence to the conduct such that the defendant might have acted differently had he known of that new consequence." Id. (emphasis added). Applying this analysis to the case at hand, the court opined that "[u]nder the old law, inmates were supposed to file § 2255 motions promptly. Had Hanserd known that AEDPA would change this, and that his initial § 2255 motion would bar a later motion based on a new Supreme Court interpretation of § 924(c), he might well have waited to file that initial motion." Id. (citations omitted). But this approach--that a retroactive legal change is one such that a party might have acted differently had he known of it--amounts to the detrimental reliance rule that Hanserd purports to reject. The only difference between the standard detrimental reliance approach and Hanserd 's formulation is that the former requires a showing of actual reliance, while Hanserd demands merely that the litigant might have relied on the superseded legal regime.17

Thus, the Supreme Court, many of the circuit courts, and Graham's own briefs agree that the focus of our retroactivity inquiry should be on the detrimental reliance he placed on pre-AEDPA law and the extent to which the statutory changes upset his settled expectations. Graham cannot show that he might have reasonably relied on pre-AEDPA law in filing any of his federal previous habeas applications.

As a preliminary matter, we note that it is the 1988 application, not the 1993 application, that makes Graham's current application successive and potentially subject to § 2244(b). The relevant time frame for retroactivity analysis is thus 1988, not 1993, because the current application is successive to the one filed in the former year, not the latter. That is, when the cases speak of AEDPA attaching new legal consequences to an application filed before its effective date, they mean that because the prisoner filed that pre-AEDPA application, he becomes subject to § 2244(b), which in turn effectively bars a post-AEDPA application. In Graham's case, AEDPA does not attach new legal consequences in this sense to the 1993 application, but to the 1988 one. Graham has not alleged detrimental reliance on pre-AEDPA law in 1988, and he cannot even plausibly claim that he might have acted differently had he known that AEDPA later would bar his claims. Even under pre-AEDPA law, a prisoner was required to present all his claims in his first application, see McCleskey, 499 U.S. at 494-95, 111 S.Ct. 1454 (holding that a prisoner wishing to bring a new claim in a second or successive habeas application had to show either that the application did not constitute an "abuse of the writ" or that he had made "a colorable showing of innocence"), and it would not have been reasonable for Graham consciously to hold back claims that he has conceded, see infra Section III.C, he could have included in the 1988 application. Thus, unlike the prisoner in Hanserd, who filed his § 2255 motion promptly in obedience to the statute in effect at the time, Graham defied pre-AEDPA law by neglecting to include claims and evidence that he could have discovered in 1988 in his first application. Accordingly, AEDPA is not retroactive with respect to Graham's 1988 application under any detrimental reliance approach.

Graham, however, argues that AEDPA attaches new legal consequences to his 1993 application: namely, that when he filed it, he thought that he would be able to return to federal court under existing (pre-AEDPA) law, but if the new statute applies, he cannot. But AEDPA does not "attach new legal consequences" to the 1993 application in the sense that his current application is barred because he filed the unexhausted application. Rather, the 1993 application has legal consequences only insofar as filing the unexhausted application delayed the third federal habeas proceeding so long that state and federal statutes modifying the scope of habeas relief were enacted during its pendency.18 Even putting aside the argument that such delay may have been Graham's goal, he had no right to place any reliance on the filing of an unexhausted application. Under Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U.S. 1, 5-12, 112 S.Ct. 1715, 118 L.Ed.2d 318 (1992), he was required to present his new evidence to the state courts before bringing it to federal court. Although the state waived the exhaustion requirement, it did so after Graham decided to file his unexhausted application and could have played no role in his initial decision to file.19 Thus, Graham's reliance argument boils down to this: He deliberately flouted federal law by filing an unexhausted application, expecting that if it were dismissed without prejudice, he could return to state court and then, perhaps, to federal court under the same law that had been in effect when he filed the unexhausted application. We find such reliance patently unreasonable.20

5. Does applying AEDPA to Graham's application constitute an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and violate the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments?

Finally, Graham presents a sketchy argument that AEDPA cuts off federal court review of a constitutional violation that resulted in a conviction and death sentence for a factually innocent person and, as such, constitutes an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and a violation of the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

We accept Graham's concession that AEDPA would preclude his application, see infra, but we do not agree that the statute is therefore unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has rejected the argument that AEDPA's new restrictions on successive habeas petitions are a "suspension" of the writ of habeas corpus contrary to article I, § 9, clause 2 of the federal Constitution. See Felker, 518 U.S. at 663-64, 116 S.Ct. 2333.

Nor do AEDPA's amendments to § 2244(b) violate the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. We have found no support for Graham's argument that denying federal court review of a successive habeas application alleging that constitutional violations resulted in the conviction of an innocent person contravenes due process and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court has stated that a procedural limitation "is not subject to proscription under the Due Process Clause unless it offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental." Medina v. California, 505 U.S. 437, 445, 112 S.Ct. 2572, 120 L.Ed.2d 353 (1992) (quoting Patterson v. New York, 432 U.S. 197, 201-02, 97 S.Ct. 2319, 53 L.Ed.2d 281 (1977)) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). As Felker pointed out, the first Congress made the writ of habeas corpus available only to federal, not state, prisoners. See 518 U.S. at 663, 116 S.Ct. 2333. Thus, the Framers could not have viewed the availability of habeas relief to inmates such as Graham as "so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental." Even assuming, as Felker did, see id. at 663-64, 116 S.Ct. 2333, that state prisoners' right to petition federal courts for writs of habeas corpus has become such a fundamental prerogative over the years, AEDPA's restrictions on successive applications fall within Congress and the courts' traditional power to limit abuses of the writ. "[T]he doctrine of abuse of the writ refers to a complex and evolving body of equitable principles informed and controlled by historical usage, statutory developments, and judicial decisions. The added restrictions which the Act places on second habeas petitions are well within the compass of this evolutionary process...." See id. at 664, 116 S.Ct. 2333 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). As such, we do not see how the pre-AEDPA abuse-of-the-writ standards can be fundamental to our notions of due process. Similarly, a punishment is not cruel and unusual so as to violate the Eighth Amendment unless it is inhuman and barbarous, see In re Kemmler, 136 U.S. 436, 447, 10 S.Ct. 930, 34 L.Ed. 519 (1890), or, in a more modern formulation, "shocks the conscience and sense of justice of the people," Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 360, 92 S.Ct. 2726, 33 L.Ed.2d 346 (1972) (Marshall, J., concurring). Given that AEDPA's successive application rules are, in the words of the Supreme Court, "well within" the traditional authority of Congress and the courts to curb abuses of the writ, we do not see how they can "shock the conscience."

Finally, assuming for the purpose of argument only that Graham is actually innocent, this court has rejected a claim such as that made by Graham that the execution of an innocent person, even where no constitutional violation has taken place, contravenes the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. While the Supreme Court assumed arguendo that in a capital case a "truly persuasive" demonstration of actual innocence made after trial would render the execution of a defendant unconstitutional and warrant federal habeas relief if there were no state avenue open to process such a claim, Herrera, 506 U.S. at 417, 113 S.Ct. 853, we have rejected that theory, see Lucas v. Johnson, 132 F.3d 1069, 1074-76 (5th Cir.), cert. dism'd, --- U.S. ----, --- S.Ct. ----, 141 L.Ed.2d 765 (1998). Moreover, there is a state avenue open to Graham: He retains his right to petition the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for clemency.

In summary, we find that AEDPA, as construed by the Court in Lindh, applies by its terms to Graham's fourth federal habeas application. We reject Graham's contention that this application is a continuation of the application dismissed in 1996 for failure to exhaust state remedies for purposes of determining whether AEDPA applies. If we are wrong in concluding that Congress clearly evinced an intent that AEDPA should govern applications such as Graham's, we nevertheless find that the statute is not impermissibly retroactive as applied to Graham's fourth application. Finally, we hold that applying AEDPA to Graham's current application does not violate the Constitution. In this case, Congress has spoken, and we are compelled to listen.

B. Motion to Recall Mandate in Previous Habeas Case

As an alternative to finding that § 2244(b) does not apply to his application, Graham urges us to recall the mandate in his third federal habeas proceeding, Graham v. Johnson, 94 F.3d 958 (5th Cir.1996), ordering the district court to dismiss the application in that case for failure to exhaust state remedies. Citing Thompson, 118 S.Ct. at 1498, he asserts that the courts of appeals have an inherent power, to be used as a last resort against "grave, unforeseen contingencies," id., to recall their mandates and that they may revisit the merits of an earlier decision denying habeas corpus relief to a state prisoner if they act to "avoid a miscarriage of justice as defined by our habeas corpus jurisprudence," id. at 1502. A prisoner meets this standard, Graham says, if he demonstrates that "it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in light of the new evidence presented in his habeas petition." Id. at 1503. Applying these principles to his own case, Graham contends that the 1996 dismissal without prejudice was not meant to cause harm to his legal rights and interests and that the court's intentions were thwarted by a grave, unforeseen contingency--namely, the passage of the 1995 Texas habeas statute and AEDPA. Because he can show that recalling the 1996 mandate would avert a miscarriage of justice, he argues, he is entitled to such relief. But Thompson held that if a court of appeals recalls a pre-AEDPA mandate as a result of a post-AEDPA motion, AEDPA applies to the motion, although this is not true if the court recalls its mandate of its own accord. See id. at 1499-1500. Our consideration of Graham's argument is, quite obviously, not a sua sponte decision but a response to his request that we do so. AEDPA therefore applies to Graham's Motion to Recall Mandate in Previous Habeas Case; because he concedes, see infra, that he cannot meet AEDPA's substantive requirements, we must deny that motion.

C. Motion for Order Authorizing District Court to Consider Successive Habeas Petition

Under AEDPA, a court of appeals may authorize a district court to consider a second or successive habeas application only if it determines that the application makes a prima facie showing that the application satisfies the requirements of § 2244(b). See 28 U.S.C. 2244(b)(3)(C). Graham concedes that he cannot make any such showing, either with respect to the claims he brought in his earlier application or those never before presented. He admits that § 2244(b)(1)'s absolute bar against re-raising "in a second or successive habeas corpus application under section 2254" a claim "that was presented in a prior application" precludes the alibi defense aspect of his ineffective assistance and actual innocence claims, which he raised in his first federal habeas proceeding in 1988. Graham also acknowledges that AEDPA bars his previously unpresented claims. According to his Motion for Order Authorizing District Court to Consider Successive Habeas Corpus Petition, his current application "relies on his actual innocence, not on 'a new rule of constitutional law,' to satisfy the criteria of § 2244(b)." Thus, under § 2244(b)(2)(B), he must show that (i) the factual predicate for the claim could not have been discovered previously through the exercise of due diligence; and (ii) the facts underlying the claim, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that, but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found him guilty of the underlying offense. These requirements, Graham admits, foreclose his application.21 In his Motion for Order Authorizing District Court to Consider Successive Habeas Petition, he states:

The AEDPA's addition of another requirement, in addition to the actual innocence requirement, for the presentation of a previously-unpresented claim in a successive habeas petition--"the factual predicate for the claim could not have been discovered previously through the exercise of due diligence," 28 U.S.C. §§ [sic] 2244(b)(2)(B)(i)--has a preclusive effect in Mr. Sankofa's case. The information that allowed Mr. Sankofa to present his multi-faceted claims of ineffective assistance and innocence in 1993 was the offense report in the district attorney's file, Appendix 17 to the 1998 federal habeas petition. This report was obtained through a state open records act request that could as readily have been made in connection with the first habeas proceeding in 1993. Thus, Mr. Sankofa will not be able to show that "the factual predicate for the claim could not have been discovered previously through the exercise of due diligence," 28 U.S.C. §§ [sic] 2244(b)(2)(B)(i). Under the law that applied to Mr. Sankofa's petition in 1993, he is entitled to have his ineffective assistance and actual innocence claims considered on the merits. Under the AEDPA, he will not be.

Graham's habeas counsel also conceded at oral argument: "We acknowledge that we cannot show that these claims could not have been raised in 1988." The following colloquy with the court ensued:

THE COURT: So your view is, then, that if the AEDPA applies to this petition, then you don't have a case.

COUNSEL: If the AEDPA applies in every way that it is written, that's right. We are precluded. And there is--there is--

THE COURT: This is really, in a basic sense, a one-issue case. I mean, you have all of this, uh, evidence that you've brought forward, but it all comes down to the question of, a legal question, which is, does the AEDPA apply to the habeas petition that's pending in front of us?

COUNSEL: That's exactly right.

THE COURT: If it does, you don't have a case; if it doesn't, then you think that you do.

COUNSEL: I mean, we certainly think we have at least the case that we had in 1993.

AEDPA does apply to Graham's application. He concedes that he cannot meet its requirements for filing a second or successive habeas application. Under these circumstances, we are compelled to deny his motion for an order authorizing the district court to consider such an application.


For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court and DENY Graham's Motion to Recall the Mandate in Previous Habeas Case. As stated in our order of February 8, 1999, Graham's Motion for Order Authorizing District Court to Consider Successive Habeas Petition is likewise DENIED.


1 For the sake of consistency, we refer to Graham by the name under which he was convicted and sentenced

2 The jury was asked the following questions:

  (1) Do you find from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the conduct of the defendant that caused the death of the deceased was committed deliberately and with the reasonable expectation that the death of the deceased or another would result?

  (2) Do you find from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society?

  (3) Do you find from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt whether [sic] the conduct of the defendant in killing the deceased was unreasonable in response to the provocation, if any, by the deceased?

The jury answered yes to all three questions. After the verdict was read, the defense requested that the jury be polled, and each juror acknowledged that the verdict accurately represented his or her answers to the special issues.

3 During the punishment phase, the state demonstrated that from May 14 to May 20, 1981, Graham robbed some thirteen different victims in nine different locations, in each instance leveling either a pistol or a sawed-off shotgun at the victim. Two of the victims were pistol-whipped, one was also shot in the neck, an elderly man was struck with the vehicle Graham had stolen from him, and a fifty-seven-year-old woman was kidnapped and raped. There was also testimony that Graham had a poor reputation in the community for being a peaceful and law-abiding citizen. The defense presented only the testimony of Graham's stepfather and grandmother as to his good and nonviolent character. After the capital murder conviction, Graham pleaded guilty to, and was sentenced to twenty-year concurrent prison terms for, ten aggravated robberies committed on May 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, and 20, 1981

4 Brown is Graham's wife. Chambers and Johnson are his cousins. Shields is a friend who lived near Graham's paternal grandmother, with whom Graham sometimes resided, at the time of the offense

5 The apparent basis for making this argument, despite the Supreme Court's decision in Graham v. Collins, 506 U.S. 461 , 113 S.Ct. 892, 122 L.Ed.2d 260 (1993), was the theory that Graham, by its reliance on Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989), did not apply except in federal habeas actions. On February 19, 1993, the Supreme Court had granted certiorari in the direct appeal case of Johnson v. Texas, 506 U.S. 1090 , 113 S.Ct. 1148, 122 L.Ed.2d 499 (1993), raising the youth-Penry issue

6 Before the passage of the 1995 act, the Texas abuse-of-the-writ doctrine allowed the courts, after finding that a habeas petitioner had failed without cause to address the same issue on direct appeal or in a previous petition, to refuse to accept the habeas petition. See Ex parte Dora, 548 S.W.2d 392, 393-94 (Tex.Crim.App.1977). The rule was not regularly applied, however, see Lowe v. Scott, 48 F.3d 873, 876 (5th Cir.1995), until 1994, see Ex parte Barber, 879 S.W.2d 889, 891 n. 1 (Tex.Crim.App.1994) (announcing strict application of abuse-of-the-writ doctrine)

7 We are aware that the Supreme Court recently granted certiorari on the following question: "If a person's petition for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. 2254 is dismissed for failure to exhaust state remedies and he subsequently exhausts his state remedies and refiles the § 2254 petition, are claims included within that petition that were not included within his initial § 2254 filing 'second or successive' habeas applications?" Slack v. McDaniel, --- U.S. ----, 119 S.Ct. 1025, 143 L.Ed.2d 36 (1999) (granting certiorari). Under current law, however, it is clear that an application filed after a previous application was fully adjudicated on the merits is a second or successive application within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. 2244(b), even if it contains claims never before raised. See Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 655-58, 662-63, 116 S.Ct. 2333, 135 L.Ed.2d 827 (1996). Graham's current application is therefore unquestionably second or successive

8 AEDPA added the following language to § 2255, which authorizes federal prisoners to seek relief from custody by filing a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence:

A second or successive motion must be certified as provided in section 2244 by a panel of the appropriate court of appeals to contain--

  (1) newly discovered evidence that, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found the movant guilty of the offense; or

  (2) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable.

28 U.S.C. 2255.

9 We point out that Graham's third claim--that he was unconstitutionally tried as an adult and that the Texas death penalty statute in effect at the time of his trial did not permit adequate consideration of youth as a mitigating factor--was not raised in his third federal habeas application and cannot properly be considered a continuation of that application. Otherwise, a prisoner whose habeas application, pending on the date of AEDPA's enactment, was later dismissed without prejudice could present any number of new claims in a later application without subjecting them to AEDPA's restrictions. But even if the pre- and post-AEDPA applications raise identical claims, the latter cannot, as we demonstrate infra, be considered a continuation of the former for purposes of determining whether the statute applies

10 Gasery was decided before Lindh, at a time when the law in this circuit was that AEDPA applied to applications pending on the date of its enactment. See Drinkard v. Johnson, 97 F.3d 751, 766 (5th Cir.1996). Thus, even if Gasery's first application had been, like Graham's, pending on the day that AEDPA became law, we would have assumed that the Act governed the later application. As we discuss infra, however, the Supreme Court, in a post-Lindh case, has applied AEDPA to a habeas application in the same procedural posture as Gasery's. See Stewart v. Martinez-Villareal, 523 U.S. 637, 118 S.Ct. 1618, 1620-22, 140 L.Ed.2d 849 (1998). Two post-Lindh cases from other circuits have applied AEDPA in the same way. See Carlson v. Pitcher, 137 F.3d 416, 419 (6th Cir.1998); McWilliams v. Colorado, 121 F.3d 573, 575 (10th Cir.1997). Furthermore, our own citations to Gasery understand it as standing for the proposition that an application filed after a predecessor is dismissed for failure to exhaust state remedies is not successive to that earlier petition and not as holding that the two are in fact the same petition. See Alexander v. Johnson, 163 F.3d 906, 909 (5th Cir.1998); In re Cain, 137 F.3d 234, 236 (5th Cir.1998). Tellingly, two circuits have held that applications in the same procedural posture as Graham's do not relate back to their predecessors for the purposes of determining whether the petitioner was in custody at the time of filing. See Henry v. Lungren, 164 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th Cir.1999); Tinder v. Paula, 725 F.2d 801, 805-06 (1st Cir.1984)

11 Both the parties and the Supreme Court treated Martinez-Villareal's motion to "reopen" his Ford claim as a new application for habeas corpus. The term suggests, however, that Martinez-Villareal, at least, viewed the new application as a continuation of, or motion for permission to continue, the previously dismissed application

12 Graham points to the federal courts' "inchoate" interest in dismissed habeas cases in an effort to refute the state's observation that habeas applications are a species of civil action, see Fisher v. Baker, 203 U.S. 174, 181, 27 S.Ct. 135, 51 L.Ed. 142 (1906) (observing that a federal habeas case is "a civil and not a criminal proceeding"), and that civil suits dismissed without prejudice are generally treated as though they had never been filed. For example, in the limitations context, this circuit does not consider a suit filed after a dismissal without prejudice a continuation of the first suit. See Hawkins v. McHugh, 46 F.3d 10, 12 (5th Cir.1995) ("A federal court that dismisses without prejudice a suit arising from a federal statutory cause of action has not adjudicated the suit on its merits, and leaves the parties in the same legal position as if no suit had been filed."); Lambert v. United States, 44 F.3d 296, 298 (5th Cir.1995) ("[T]he district court's order dismissing the suit without prejudice left Lambert in the same position as if the first suit had never been filed."). Other circuits have reached the same conclusion. See Chico-Velez v. Roche Prods., Inc., 139 F.3d 56, 59 (1st Cir.1998); Johnson v. Nyack Hosp., 86 F.3d 8, 11 (2d Cir.1996); Garfield v. J.C. Nichols Real Estate, 57 F.3d 662, 666 (8th Cir.1995). The state argues that, consistent with this view, the dismissal of Graham's third federal habeas application without prejudice means, in effect, that it was never filed and was therefore not pending on the date AEDPA became effective for purposes of deciding whether the statute governs Graham's current application

13 In the past, we have permitted district courts to abate a prisoner's § 1983 action that we concluded should be treated as a habeas corpus application. See Johnson v. Texas, 878 F.2d 904, 906 (5th Cir.1989). This practice was an attempt to prevent the § 1983 statute of limitations from barring the prisoner's refiled suit upon his post-exhaustion return to federal court. See Serio v. Members of La. State Bd. of Pardons, 821 F.2d 1112, 1119 (5th Cir.1987); Jackson v. Torres, 720 F.2d 877, 879 (5th Cir.1983)

14 Of course, a court will not apply a statute as Congress directs if doing so would violate a constitutional provision, such as the Ex Post Facto Clause or article I, § 10, cl. 1, which prohibits states from passing laws "impairing the Obligation of Contracts." See Landgraf, 511 U.S. at 266-67, 114 S.Ct. 1483. But "[t]he Constitution's restrictions ... are of limited scope," and "[a]bsent a violation of one of those specific provisions, the potential unfairness of retroactive civil legislation is not a sufficient reason for a court to fail to give a statute its intended scope." Id. at 267, 114 S.Ct. 1483

15 Under Lindh, of course, AEDPA would not apply to Burris's second petition because it was pending on the date the statute became law; indeed, the Seventh Circuit decided Burris against the backdrop of its own opinion in Lindh v. Murphy, 96 F.3d 856 (7th Cir.1996) (en banc), which the Supreme Court later reversed. As we explain infra, however, Lindh does not overrule Burris

16 Before Lindh, our own court used detrimental reliance analysis to decide whether AEDPA's increased deference to state court factfindings, see 28 U.S.C. 2254(d), applied to a case pending on appeal on April 24, 1996. See Drinkard, 97 F.3d at 764-66. In Drinkard, we concluded that AEDPA applied to a prisoner's habeas application because he could not "argue credibly" that he would have proceeded any differently during his state post-conviction proceedings had he known at the time of those proceedings that the federal courts would not review claims adjudicated on the merits in the state court proceedings de novo. The Eleventh Circuit employed a similar mode of analysis. See Hunter v. United States, 101 F.3d 1565, 1573 (11th Cir.1996) (discussing application of amended § 2253(c) and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 22(b) to pending cases). Although Lindh overruled Drinkard 's holding, it did not discredit our analysis; rather, it merely concluded that there was clear congressional intent that AEDPA apply only to cases filed after the Act became effective, and that further retroactivity analysis was therefore unnecessary

17 In addition to the Sixth Circuit, the Third Circuit has held that if a prisoner "can show that he would have been entitled to pursue his second petition under pre-AEDPA law, then the Landgraf default rule prohibits applying AEDPA's new substantive gatekeeping provisions to bar his claims." Minarik, 166 F.3d 591, 602. Similarly, the District of Columbia Circuit has held that "the new standards and procedures under AEDPA for filing § 2255 motions could only be improperly retroactive as applied to [the prisoner] if he would have met the former cause-and-prejudice standard under McCleskey and previously would have been allowed to file a second § 2255 motion, but could not file a second motion under AEDPA." Ortiz, 136 F.3d at 166. Both of these courts concluded that pre-AEDPA law would have barred the prisoner's successive application and did not consider a situation in which pre- and post-AEDPA law would have led to different results but there was no detrimental reliance. A number of other courts, as we noted above in Subsection III.A.4.a, have applied AEDPA to applications in the same procedural posture as Graham's without explicitly considering the retroactivity issue

18 In addition, the 1993 application could have affected Graham adversely only if, had he exhausted state remedies before filing his federal application, he would have reached federal court before the passage of AEDPA

19 Fifth Circuit case law suggested that the federal courts typically would honor such a waiver. In McGee v. Estelle, 722 F.2d 1206, 1211 (5th Cir.1984), we held:

If, out of respect, the federal courts defer to the state so that its courts can first pass on claims that the state has denied a person his constitutional rights, it is a corollary that they should defer equally to the state's desire that federal courts not abide a state court ruling. The supremacy of the federal constitution and the laws made pursuant to it do not convert the fifty states into dependencies. Respect should not turn into a fetish for non-precedence with the federal Alphonse endlessly insisting that the state Gaston pass first through the doorway without regard for Gaston's wishes.

The McGee court also asserted, "In the usual case ... federalism, expense to litigants, and the conservation of judicial resources are all served by honoring the waiver and deciding the merits." Id. at 1214. But none of the applicable case law requires a federal court to accept a state's waiver of exhaustion. Indeed, McGee said: "A finding of waiver does not conclude our consideration, for a district court or a panel of this court may consider that it should not accept a waiver, express or implied." Id. Thus, while Graham may have hoped that the federal courts would accept the state's waiver, it was not reasonable for him to rely on such an acceptance.

20 The state urged both in its briefs and in oral argument that we should deny Graham's Motion for Order Authorizing District Court to Consider Successive Habeas Petition because his current application is time-barred under 28 U.S.C. 2244(d). We need not reach the limitations question, however, because Graham concedes, see infra Section III.C, that he cannot meet the requirements for the issuance of such an order. We express no opinion as to whether a court of appeals should consider the timeliness of a habeas application in deciding a prisoner's motion for authorization to file it

21 Graham's briefs do not explicitly address whether the third claim in his current habeas application--namely, that he was unconstitutionally tried as an adult and that the Texas death penalty statute does not permit adequate consideration of youth as a mitigating factor--meets § 2244(b)'s requirements. The former claim apparently has not been raised before and is governed by § 2244(b)(2). Graham does not contend that it is based on a new rule of constitutional law or that he could not have discovered the factual basis for it in 1988, when he filed his first federal habeas application. The latter claim was thoroughly litigated in his first federal habeas proceeding, see supra Part I, and is barred under § 2244(b)(1)



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