Injustice anywhere is a threat everywhere”, a pivotal and earnest principle; for in the criminal justice system it is preferable for the crimes of ten guilty men to go unpunished rather than to convict one innocent man. However, how feasible is this in reality? Well, unfortunately, there is the overburden of excessive caseloads bestowed upon both prosecutors and defense attorneys that regrettably result in the mostly unintentional (but sometimes negligent) mistreatment of cases that equate unlawful misconduct . Often the repercussions that emanate from these copious amounts of caseloads is wrongful convictions as a by-product of prosecutors and defense attorneys not having sufficient time to meticulously research their cases and instead taking the silver bullet approach of guilty pleas in order to save themselves the painstaking time of following through with trial. Other times, prosecutors are involved in other types of misconduct such as discrimination, racism, and prejudice and unfortunately, prosecutorial misconduct has resulted in various wrongful convictions including some death penalty cases.
Ernest (Shujaa) Graham was a victim of a wrongful death penalty conviction; he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death in Santa Clara, California in 1976. Ernest Graham was born and raised in a small town called Lake Providence, Louisiana. He and his entire family were share-croppers and he had the ambition of becoming a tractor driver in order to work less. When he turned eight, his mother moved to Los Angeles and lamentably could not afford to bring Shujaa with her; therefore, he remained in the custody of his grandmother who raised him for a few years. At the age of twelve, he joined his mother in Los Angeles; however, he was unable to adapt and was in-and-out of juvenile detention. At only eighteen years old, he was convicted and sent to prison of a $35 robbery. Once in prison, Ernest learned how to read and write and undertook the study of history and international affairs and eventually became a leader of the Black Panther Party within the California System.
In November of 1973, Shujaa was wrongfully convicted of murdering a prison guard and was sentenced to death. He was constantly beaten and his hope was waning. Watching television, he learned one day that his conviction was being overturned because the prosecutors had removed all the African Americans from the jury. He was tried twice more prior to becoming a free man once more in 1981. Shujaa spent 8 years serving prison for a wrongful conviction. He eventually got married, had three children, and opened a landscaping business in Maryland but he devoted his life to ending the death penalty.