by Stone Phillips (Dateline anchor)
When I interviewed David Graham for Dateline shortly after his murder conviction in 1998, the handsome former Air Force Academy cadet looked me straight in the eye and swore he wasn't even there the night 16-year-old Adrianne Jones was killed.
He blamed it on his girlfriend.
Graham insisted it was Diane Zamora who picked Adrianne up that night, Diane who drove her to a secluded road in Grand Prairie, Texas, and Diane who shot her in the head. Of course, he was lying through his teeth and later admitted as much. In a recent letter to Dateline producer Ellen Sherman, Graham described his interview with me as "not (his) finest hour."
He blamed it on his lawyer.
Given Graham's affinity for fabrication, I wondered what my interview with Diane Zamora would be like. Like Graham, she had been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. Was the former mid-shipman cut from the same cloth? Or, nearly a decade after the crime, would she tell me the truth?
When she approached our camera position from behind a glass partition, Diane appeared demure and depressed. The defiant look she had worn through much of her trial had disappeared, but not for long.
Zamora claimed that she was the victim of verbal and sexual abuse by David Graham, misconduct by police, and mistakes by a jury she believes ignored exculpatory evidence. Yes, she was wrong not to have gone to police right after the murder. Yes, she obstructed justice by helping to cover up the crime for nine months. But Zamora insisted she only went along that night to question Adrianne Jones, not to kill her. It was Graham who planned the murder, she said, and Graham who carried it out.
Zamora told me all she wanted was for people to take a closer look at the evidence. Dateline did. And, indeed, looking back at her trial there was testimony from prosecution witnesses to support some of her claims. But there are also more than a few contradictions in her story.
In the weeks following the interview, a thought occurred to me. Years earlier, during a previous visit with Zamora, she had mentioned to me that she wished she could take a lie detector test. She said her story was the only one that fit the facts and seemed confident that she would pass. I wondered if that was something she was still interested in doing.
So, as we finished preparing our report, I wrote Diane a letter reminding her of our conversation and telling her that Dateline might be able to arrange a polygraph if she was willing to take one. She wrote us back immediately. Her answer was yes. Her lawyer approved. She took the test.
We all knew it wouldn't change anything legally.
Still, the results might give viewers something more to consider in this classic "he said, she said." Zamora saw it as an opportunity to salvage some dignity and, perhaps, a degree of vindication. If not for herself, she said, it was worth doing for her mother, who has stood by Diane from the beginning. She knew that we were going to broadcast the results, no matter what the outcome. I would return to the prison and, with cameras rolling, give her the results.
It would be a first for Zamora... and me.
In my 25 years as a news correspondent, I had never gone back to an interview subject with the results of a lie detector test. Suffice to say, the tension was running high-- a convicted murderer, proclaiming her innocence, presented with the outcome of a long-awaited truth test.
When it was over, we both got up from our chairs. Drained.
Stone Phillips' report on the case airs Dateline Sunday, April 8, 8 p.m.