Hanging with Mr. X

Quanell comes on strong at Graham's execution, then vanishes

Just as quickly, a group of riot-helmet-wearing Department of Public Safety troopers and white-hatted Texas Rangers materialized to head them off. After a brief exchange of words, Quanell's group retreated back down the street away from the building. They were followed for a couple of blocks by several Rangers; an obviously pissed-off Sergeant Drew Carter -- the man who brought in serial killer Angel Maturino Resendiz -- led the way.

Quanell re-formed his ranks on the eastern edge of downtown Huntsville. In front of an abandoned movie theater with a Lauraposter still encased on the front wall, he climbed atop an automobile. Armed guards flanked Quanell as he invited questions. What, a white female reporter asked, what he was going to do?

"If I looked like you," he told her, "I wouldn't be around here when [Graham] dies." Quanell promised that he and his men would not leave Huntsville as long as Gary Graham was alive.

Perhaps prison officials decided to solve two problems at once. The Supreme Court declined another stay for Graham, and a final federal court appeal also failed. Graham gave his rambling six-minute final statement. His last words were "They are murdering me."

At 8:47 p.m., almost three hours behind schedule, Graham's 19 years on death row ended with his execution.

The tension in Huntsville was not quite over. Outside the prison walls, DPS troopers and prison guards in riot gear lined up several rows deep.

One trooper relayed the word: "Two minutes until the witnesses [to the execution] come out." Police braced themselves for the possibility that the protesters would mount one last rush to the prison gates.

The assault never came. In fact, at about the time Graham was dying, the drumbeats had stopped. Loudspeakers of protesters hushed to silence. A sudden, unsolicited quiet -- if not calm -- came over the crowd.

Only the crying was left. By then, Quanell X was long gone.

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