Mother Pleads For Son’s Life, Says He Didn’t Strangle Seven Women
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The mother of Harrison Graham pleaded for the life of her son Thursday, telling the judge who will impose sentence that Graham did not kill the seven women whose bodies were found in and near his apartment.
″I don’t think you should take his life,″ said Lillian Graham Jeter, wiping tears from her eyes. ″He didn’t kill those people. The real murderer is still out there. I’m asking you to listen to your heart.″
Her testimony came during a hearing before Common Pleas Judge Robert Latrone, who will decide whether to sentence Graham, 28, an unemployed handyman, to life imprisonment or death in the electric chair.
″I don’t want to appear heartless, but I have determined his guilt,″ Latrone said, referring to his verdict of guilty on Wednesday to seven counts of first degree murder and seven counts of abuse of corpse. ″I can well understand how you feel, but we are considering what the punishment might be.″
The hearing concluded at midafternoon. The judge did not specify when he would rule.
Latrone had found that the prosecution proved that Graham killed seven women between January and August 1987 and kept their rotting remains locked in a room in a house he rented in north Philadelphia. Rejecting an insanity defense, Latrone also found Graham knew what he was doing when he confessed to strangling the women as he had sex with them.
The bodies were found after Graham was evicted because of the stench coming from his apartment.
Assistant District Attorney Roger King said death was the only punishment justifed for such ″sadistic murders.″
Rose Harriell, mother of one of the victims, Barbara Mahoney, said: ″I believe he should die. I believe he should have a hard death. Nothing can bring back my daughter, and I am angry about that, but I would be angrier yet if he just sits in jail and gets fatter and fatter.″
Before Thursday’s sentencing hearing began, the judge told Graham he could have a jury of 12 persons decide his fate. Graham waived that right on the advice of his lawyer, Joel Muldovsky. Graham had also waived a jury trial, but under state law retained the right to have a jury decide the sentence.
Latrone asked Graham several times whether he understood the right he was giving up and each time Graham said he knew what he was doing.
″I want you″ to decide the sentence, Graham said.
Muldovsky proceeded to call witnesses to keep his client from ″frying in the electric chair. He doesn’t deserve that.″
″You’re talking about a creature of habit who went back and back and back,″ King argued, referring to what he called ″the arrogant series of sex stranglings.″
Said Camelia DeShazor Parker, mother of another of the victims, said, ″He deserves everything he gets.″
The first defense witness was Pauline Williams, who was Graham’s foster mother for five years.
″Marty is a child in a man’s body,″ she said. ″Marty is retarded. He was never raised to hate. He was raised to be obedient. Marty is alive. I want him to stay alive.″