Democrats & Liberals Archives

Innocence Matters!

[Update: U.S. Supreme Court issues stay of execution until they take the case-or not-next Monday]
Will an innocent man in Georgia be put to death today by the state?

Opponents and supporters of the death penalty should be united in opposing such a possibility. But it appears that only Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas stand in the way of this very real possibility. Troy Anthony Davis, likely innocent of the murder of which he is accused, watches the minutes pass as last minute appeals to grant a stay or retry his case go unheeded.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied Davis a stay of execution, and just yesterday the Georgia Supreme Court denied clemency in a 6-1 decision. In March, that body had rejected by a 4-3 vote, his request for a new trial.

Davis was sentenced to die for the 1989 murder of a Savannah, Georgia police officer. He has maintained his innocence from the outset, 7 of 9 witnesses have recanted their testimony, no physical evidence tied him to the murder, and there is a credible different suspect for the crime. Georgia's Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote the dissenting opinion in March, but agreed with the majority yesterday that now the "jurisdiction is properly in the [U.S.] Supreme Court, not this Court." In March she agreed with the majority that recantation testimony is inherently suspect, but maintained that:"If recantation testimony, either alone or supported by other evidence, shows convincingly that prior trial testimony was false, it simply defies all logic and morality to hold that it must be disregarded categorically."

The catch is that the case isn't scheduled to come before the U. S. Supreme Court until next Monday, but Davis is scheduled to be executed at 7 PM this evening. It strikes me that yesterday's decision also "defies all logic and morality". As New York Times editorialist opines: What's the Rush?

Clarence Thomas remains one of Davis' last dim hopes, because he is the designated justice for intervening in the circuit which includes Georgia, which happens to be Thomas' home state.

Innocence Matters!

So proclaims the website dedicated to the exoneration of one death row inmate in Georgia. Whether one believes that the death penalty is ever appropriate, or in the innocence or guilt of that particular inmate, we should all agree that indeed innocence does matter.

As we examine the case of Troy Anthony Davis, we should care very much whether an innocent man was convicted of a crime which substantial evidence seems to indicate was committed by someone else. It is also worth examining several broader questions. Does the desire to gain convictions skew investigations to buoy the first plausible solution to the exclusion of other possibilities? Once convicted of a crime, are the barriers to considering continued claims or evidence of innocence too steep? Should the certainty of guilt be even higher for the application of the death penalty? When if ever is the death penalty appropriate, or as the American Bar Association claims, do inconsistencies and flaws in our system of justice warrant a moratorium on capital punishment?

I believe we have a compelling need for re-examination of the process for granting new trials in cases where either faulty investigations, over zealous prosecution, coerced testimony, recantations, or new evidence casts doubt on former convictions - whether or not the death penalty is involved. That doesn't mean opening every case where an inmate claims innocence, or making it too easy for outside organizations to force trials when the case is not strong. But justice is not served by keeping the innocent behind bars in the name of having "someone" pay for the crime, upholding the standing of police or prosecutors, or appearing tough on crime.

The Innocence Project is doing great work in using DNA testing from former convictions to exonerate many who have been unjustly imprisoned. But physical evidence is not always available, as in the case of Davis, and common sense suggests that wrongful convictions are at least as high in such cases where eye-witness testimony is likely to have played a major role.

I am not claiming to know that Troy Davis is innocent. My window on the case is limited to what I've heard on radio, read online, and heard in conversation with Laura Moye, who is deputy director of Amnesty International's Southern regional office. I acknowledge that I am a long way away, and may have been swayed by the fact that "Davis' supporters were good at 'marketing' their cause", as DA assistant David Lock told Georgia's justices. Still, based on what I have learned, it seems more plausible that alternative suspect Sylvester "Redd" Coles is the actual perpetrator. And it is very difficult to accept that a new trial should not be granted in light of the recantations of 7 of the 9 original eyewitnesses. From a Savannah Morning News account

"If the prosecution witnesses are recanting to that extent and that they possibly perjured themselves, then the Supreme Court is doing the right thing [in considering whether to grant a new trial]," said William "Rusty" Hubbarth, vice president of the pro-death-penalty Justice For All in Austin, Texas. "I have never heard of a case like this where you have five or six witnesses recanting."

A Tragic Night

When off duty police officer Mark MacPhail responded to a commotion near a downtown Savannah Burger King at 1 AM on Aug. 19th of 1989, he discovered a homeless man, Larry Young, being pistol whipped. Before he had a chance to draw his pistol from his holster, Larry Young's attacker, seeing the officer's badge, shot and killed him. Witnesses hearing the shots saw three men fleeing the scene. This account (scroll 1/3 down), two of a series of five articles last year about the case appearing the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, gives what appears to be a fair summary about what is known about the sequence of events that evening, and what Troy Davis and Redd Coles each claim to have occurred. Davis' proximity to the site of two shootings on the same evening understandably directed suspicion his way, but the wantonly murderous behavior he is accused of, seems to fit better with Coles prior and subsequent behavior than with that of Davis. And two of the recanting witnesses have signed affidavits declaring that Coles was also present at the party earlier in the evening near to where another man was shot and injured. Why would Davis brutally assault the homeless man, when even Coles admitted that it was he who had the initial argument (over a beer) with him? Why did Coles show up at the police station with a high paid lawyer to finger Davis in the crime? Why did Davis so readily return from his subsequent trip to Atlanta when he discovered he was the subject of a manhunt, unless he felt confident that he would be absolved of the charges.

7 of 9 Recant

But the most compelling case for granting a new trial comes from the sworn affidavits recanting earlier testimony which implicated Davis, and suggesting police coercion in obtaining that testimony. The unfortunate homeless man who was the victim of the beating was detained by police for over an hour when he most needed medical attention. In pain and somewhat inebriated he finally signed a statement written by police without reading it, in order to gain his own release. Reading the details of each recantation, it is difficult to believe prosecutor's claims that Davis' family was able to pressure all of these witnesses to recant earlier testimony, risking perjury, not to mention the wrath of the still free Coles, simply out of sympathy for a man on death row.

Troy Anthony Davis has been in prison now for 19 years. That alone would be an extraordinary sentence for what, if his story is true, may have been a case of keeping bad company and using poor judgment in the aftermath of gunfire.

The appeals process has been yet another story in this case, where procedural reasoning seems to trump new reasonable doubt, whether in the state's habeas court denial of his petition in 1977, or the impact of provisions of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 signed into law by Clinton, which restricted the power of federal courts to correct constitutional error in criminal cases, or the Federal 11th Circuit Court's denial of Troy's appeal in 2006, or the U.S. Supreme Court's earlier refusal to hear his case, or tardy scheduling of the currently scheduled hearing.

This case has periodically gotten some media attention, yet in spite of the lack of evidence we are now possibly hours away from never being able to turn back. How many other cases languish in obscurity where innocent prisoners will never receive a fair trial when they were originally denied one? In many cases - hopefully a large majority of them - our justice system where one is innocent until proven guilty works beautifully. We have a justice system which on the whole is worth fighting for, and is far better than that which existed in earlier centuries, or does exist in many places around the world. But two factors which stand as a threat to proper justice remain the inordinate influence of money and connections on the process, and the growing simplistic tough on crime attitude which vilifies the accused too early in the process, values numbers of convictions over certainty of justice, and turns a blind eye all too often on instances of police or prosecutorial misconduct.

Process matters. Complexity matters. Motive matters. Truth matters. Certainty matters.

Innocence matters.

Posted by Walker Willingham at September 23, 2008 12:02 PM
Comments
Comment #263985

That is sad story - yet another reason why the death penalty is wrong. A dead man can’t hear “I’m sorry we made a mistake.” It is naive to for anyone to think that we haven’t already executed an innocent person, or several, or many. Our justice system has been proven to be unfair to the poor and to minorities and even when guilt is well established, this penalty overwhelmingly goes to the poor and to minorities. We have prosecutors that get rewarded only for getting convictions so there are some willing to lie, cheat, or steal to get a conviction whether or not it is warranted. I firmly believe that it is better to let 1,000 guilty men go free than to execute one innocent man.

It is way past time to get rid of this penalty. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than as a way for politicians to pander to people who are afraid and angry. We are the last developed nation that still has this barbaric punishment on our books. It’s wrong, it’s immoral, and it’s ineffective.

Posted by: tcsned at September 23, 2008 12:43 PM
Comment #263989

Where are all the prolifers-oh thats right-they aren’t really prolife

This is why I am against the death penality. To me it is just as likely that the witnesses lied before as opposed to lieing now.

This is a sad story. So much for our system of justice. Where is the justice in this. What can it hurt to wait. But of course the police don’t want it reviewed and the district attorney just wants to keep the number of his/her wins high. Our system of justice cares nothing about the person. Its all a game-to win or lose.

Posted by: Carolina at September 23, 2008 1:26 PM
Comment #263994

It has been reviewed:
“Fourteen months ago, the board halted Davis’ execution because of questions as to his guilt. Since then, the board has extensively studied and considered the case, board spokeswoman Scheree Lipscomb said.

This includes hearing from every witness presented by Davis’ lawyers, retesting the state’s evidence and interviewing Davis himself, she said.

“After an exhaustive review of all available information regarding the Troy Davis case and after considering all possible reasons for granting clemency, the board has determined that clemency is not warranted,” Lipscomb said.”

The man got a trial and was found guilty. The man got a review and was found still guilty.

Posted by: kctim at September 23, 2008 2:06 PM
Comment #263998

Everybody is innocent when you ask them or their lawyers.

Posted by: Liam at September 23, 2008 2:31 PM
Comment #264001

Liam - everybody is guilty if you ask a prosecutor.

This is beside the point of the immorality of the death penalty. It’s barbaric. We are right up there with those other bastions of justice and freedom China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq in the number of citizens our government kills. Great company we keep, Liam.

Walker - did this case originate from the Columbus, GA area? That would explain a lot.

Posted by: tcsned at September 23, 2008 2:45 PM
Comment #264004

Liam

Everybody is innocent when you ask them or their lawyers.
But not everybody on death row has 7 out of 9 witnesses recant their testimony. 7 out of 9! And if you read the recantations they are powerfully convincing. Adam Serwer at Tapped excerpts two of them. One of the two who did not recant his testimony is the likeliest actual killer.

It is an awful tragedy that an off-duty policeman who was trying to be helpful lost his life that night. The tragedy is compounded when a system so intent on successful prosecution gets it wrong, and is likely going to execute an innocent man for the crime.

tcsned - The case originated in Savannah.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at September 23, 2008 2:56 PM
Comment #264006

The general argument for the death penalty is that if the person was convicted, and that conviction was upheld through the appeals process, then they had their chance and too bad for them (see kctim’s post above). That is all well and good… certainly there needs to be a point at which convictions are upheld unless absolute proof of innocence is brought forth. The only problem with that line of reasoning in this case is the irrevesibility of the death penalty.

There are only two logical arguments for the death penalty. One must either believe that it is impossible for United States to wrongly put an innocent person to death -OR- that a small number of innocents put to death is acceptable in order to uphold the system. It’s one or the other people…

Certainly… CERTAINLY innocent people have been put to death under our system. That is unacceptable.

Let me be very clear about something, a conviction of a crime in court only means that a group of people found a person guilty of a crime, it does not mean that person actually committed that crime. If there are any death penalty supporters reading this who find it acceptable for a person to be put to death for a crime they did not actually commit, then please say so.

I challenge anyone to argue for the death penalty that recognizes the difference between a conviction of a crime and actually committing the crime.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at September 23, 2008 3:06 PM
Comment #264007

Life isn’t fair and some people are going to get a raw deal.
But we shouldn’t be spending so much to house serious criminals for decades. We need broader and swifter capital punishments.

If he is innocent, the lying witnesses who gave false testimony should be executed.

Posted by: Schwamp at September 23, 2008 3:15 PM
Comment #264008

I wasn’t arguing for or against the death penalty or Davis. Carolina incorrectly said that the case had not been reviewed and hinted at a hidden conspiracy. I merely used Walkers link to show that was not the case.

This is an emotional issue and too many people base their opinions on emotion rather than fact.

Posted by: kctim at September 23, 2008 3:17 PM
Comment #264009

“Life isn’t fair and some people are going to get a raw deal.”

I’ll take that as Schwamp’s admission that a few innocents put to death is acceptable in order to uphold the system. I happen to disagree, but… fair enough. At least that person has the courage to say it openly.

I am curious though… if it were one’s friend or family member (son? daughter?) put to death wrongly, would the tune change?

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at September 23, 2008 3:22 PM
Comment #264011

kctim is absolutely correct that this is an emotional issue (on BOTH sides) and we should attempt to attack it from a point of logic and fact rather than feelings (the distatse of ‘government sponsored killing’ along with the ‘need to make someone pay’). And that is exactly why I have tried to cut to the heart of the argument for the death penalty in a logical manner.

If you are honestly and logically for the death penalty, the only two logical conclusions are the two I drew above. I challenge anyone to argue otherwise.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at September 23, 2008 3:28 PM
Comment #264012

Schwamp - what if it was someone that you cared for that was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death? What if it was you? Would you go willingly to the death chamber as sick individuals cheered your impending demise?

It is ludicrous to advocate more killing by the state. Where should it end - execution for jay walking? Parking violations?

You say those giving false testimony should be executed - how about Scooter Libby? Karl Rove? I won’t even mention Bill Clinton ‘cause I can guess where you stand on that.

Posted by: tcsned at September 23, 2008 3:30 PM
Comment #264014

How many prisoners are institutionalized for life? Should they have the option to request the death penalty? Life in remain in prison until death? It is better than death right?

I have no idea what the cost is to maintain a prisoner, especially one for life. I will assume we are all comfortable with the tax burden created by allowing a convicted criminal to stay incarcerated.

Why is the death penalty not a deterrent? From what I have read, years ago now, it is a significant deterant.

Posted by: Honest at September 23, 2008 3:45 PM
Comment #264016

kctim,

The Ga Board of Pardons and Paroles claims to have reviewed it, but the case has not been retried with the recanting witnesses being allowed to come forward.

Schwamp,

So the witness who was unable to read and consented to sign a document in a coercive environment should now be executed if Davis is shown to be innocent? Perhaps the coercive officers should be executed in your book. You seem mighty willing to dispense the death penalty. Some of us are more comfortable having no one die for a crime, then just guessing and hoping that the executed person really deserved the fate. But then we’re just bleeding heart liberals.

Those commenters who are convinced that Davis had his day in court, and that the system must have worked for his case to have held up for 19 years, should really read this detailed account. You have to wait for it to load and scroll about 1/3 of the way down. Unfortunately the original account was moved from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s primary site to their archives, which are no longer free, so I am having to point to this copy of two of the five part series they ran last year.

I have little doubt that Davis is guilty of poor judgment, and possible a crime that night, but to me it seems unlikely that he was the killer. It just doesn’t add up.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at September 23, 2008 3:48 PM
Comment #264020

Honest… You raise some good questions. There is information available for those who choose to pursue it.

But again, even if the cost and deterence issues are answered satisfactorily, we have still not resolved whether or not it is acceptable to put innocent people to death. And THAT is the core of the issue put forth in the article above.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at September 23, 2008 3:53 PM
Comment #264025

I’m willing to bet nearly every innocent person ever put to death was convicted based on false eyewitness testimony. False eyewitness testimony can kill. Why shouldn’t it be severely punishable.

Politicians lieing doesn’t kill - at least directly.

If it was someone I cared about - well if that is a basis for leniency then should we let all criminals go in case one is innocent? Of course not and I’m not advocating denying anyone a defense.

Posted by: Schwamp at September 23, 2008 4:21 PM
Comment #264026

To quote from Doug’s link:

However, research indicates that the death penalty is no more effective as a deterrent to murder than the punishment of life in jail. States with the death penalty on average do not have lower rates of homicide than states without the penalty.

And who should pay, and how should they pay if/when it is discovered that innocent people were put to death? Seems to me it is the same thing. This is just a more sophisticated system but the same old hanging party of the wild west.

I am totally against the death penalty.

Posted by: womanmarine at September 23, 2008 4:27 PM
Comment #264027

Schwamp… you are correct that you have not posted anything that would suggest advocating denying anyone a defense. You did say, however:

“Life isn’t fair and some people are going to get a raw deal.”

This heavily implies a willingness to accept the government putting innocent people to death. Am I wrong in reading that implication?

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at September 23, 2008 4:30 PM
Comment #264030

It would be a more effective deterrent if we killed them within 20 months, instead of coddling them for 20 years.

Posted by: kctim at September 23, 2008 4:46 PM
Comment #264032

Doug - The link you provided shows that there is no deterrent value and no financial value to having a death penalty. There is only moral argument - is revenge killing by the state ok? Is it ok for the state to kill a few innocent people?

I have a good friend, Bill Munsey who managed a club I used to play in while working as a musician. Bill was a gracious guy, rare among club managers and we became friends over the years. Bill’s 16-year old daughter was murdered (Tara Rose Munsey) - Bill and Kitty (his ex-wife) had never thought much about the death penalty before their daughter’s life was taken. Jeffrey Allen Thomas was convicted of Tara’s murder. After his conviction, and much to the surprise of the court, Kitty told the jury, “Hating somebody for doing something to someone you love so much really doesn’t accomplish anything,” she says. “It certainly doesn’t accomplish what Jesus tried to teach us … that we should love one another and try to forgive one another. There’s no exception to that. It even should be for people, like Jeff, who have done something so terrible.” The defense attorney told a local newspaper, “Their comments are the product of a level of grace and passion that is not only rarely seen in these types of cases, but is also unexpected and, quite often, undeserved.” Even though Thomas was initially given the death penalty, thanks in large part to Kitty and Bill he was given a new trial, plead guilty, and was sentenced to life without parole.

I have two small children and I don’t know that I would be as strong as Bill and Kitty but I am thankful that there are people like them in the world to be a voice of reason and compassion in a world seriously lacking in both.

Posted by: tcsned at September 23, 2008 4:54 PM
Comment #264033

yep… we shouldn’t ‘coddle’ the potentially innocent, should we?

“…instead of coddling them for 20 years.”

That’s a rather emotional statement from an otherwise logical source. And it assumes, of course, that 100% of those convicted actually committed the crime.

And speaking of logic… no one has even attempted to refrute mine. We just go back to the highly emotional and illogical “if we killed them within 20 months” rhetoric. I guess those sentenced to capitol punishment don’t deserve an exhaustive appeals process to be sure we’re killing the right people… just kill ‘em all within 20 months!


Posted by: Doug Langworthy at September 23, 2008 4:55 PM
Comment #264040

Sorry Doug, not an emotion, just a fact. A fact concerning it as a deterent, not the morality of it. They are two separate things.

As far as your logic, why would anybody try to refute it? Nobody believes the system is perfect and nobody wants an innocent person to be executed, that is why the sentence requires extraordinary evidence beyond any doubt. Some of us are willing to accept that and some of us are not.

Posted by: kctim at September 23, 2008 5:51 PM
Comment #264042

The granting of a new trial years after the first conviction present many problems. Witnesses die, move and can’t be found, memories fade, evidence can be lost, degraded or misplaced.

If a new trial is granted and the defendant is found not guilty due to any or all of the reasons I stated above, is justice done? The passage of time, especially very long periods of time is almost always a disadvantage to the prosecuting attorney who must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now then, should a new trial be granted, a not guilty verdict be rendered, and the defendant be set free; who bears the responsibility if that person takes another life. What if you or your family are the next victims…then what? Upon whose shoulders would you place the blame for allowing the freed defendant to kill again?

How are possible victims of new crimes committed by released defendants to be protected?

Are convicted murderers sentenced to life in prison never released? Do those released never commit another murder?

I don’t have all the answers as some of you seem to and would like my questions addressed.

Posted by: Jim M at September 23, 2008 6:07 PM
Comment #264045

Walker:
Nice article. I am going to be unable to spend the time researching the facts on this case, but I want to say that I pray that the state is not executing an innocent man.

Carolina:
“Where are all the prolifers-oh thats right-they aren’t really prolife” I will gladly trade the death penality for not using any tax money support abortions in any way shape or form. Killing innocent lives are wrong no matter the age. Fair enough?

Doug:
You have made a great point about the death penality. It certainly is the one that troubles me most. I personally think that the death penality as applied in the USA is more fair to the convicted than anywhere on Earth. Perfect? Absolutely not. IMHO the legal process that allows for 20+ years a some sentence to be carried out is what makes it fair AND inneffective as a deterrent. At times I fall for line of thought that the executions should be swifter, but that would mean the system would not be as fair to the convicted. Kind of a “Catch 22”, don’t you think? Fair must prevail.

I do recognize that there is a difference between committing and being convicted of a crime, but if this is your sole arguement against the death penality, I ask you to ponder this point. What have you taken from a man convicted of murder and sentenced to life, only to be cleared for this crime 20 years later? Not only has he lost 20 years of his life, but he has lost all of the potential he had for that 20 years, quite possibly his wife and children have left him, and loved ones may have died. At the very least he and his family have endured so much that nothing, NOTHING can be done to make things normal, much less right. He may be alive, but was his sentence any less irrovocable or final than if he had been executed? Should we not ban life sentences as well? There are far more innocent people sentenced to life than death. Should we set them all free for the one?


Posted by: submariner at September 23, 2008 6:31 PM
Comment #264048

Submariner… you bring up great points. Once a reasonable person rightly concludes that the system is not perfect and that innocent people are indeed convicted of crimes they did not commit, then it becomes a matter of where do we want to draw the line?

I can respect Schwamp’s contention above that life isn’t fair and some people are going to get a raw deal… I heavily disagree with their conclusion that it is acceptable for innocent people to be put to death by the state, but I respect that he/she is at least confronting the fact that in states with the death penalty, innocent people are, indeed, being put to death. No other death penalty advocate in this thread has even addressed this as a possibility.

If my son or daughter were wrongly convicted of a capital offense, I would prefer that they receive life in prison w/o possibility of parole than for them to be put to death. You are correct about the 20 years they could never get back, but they would at least be able to attempt to build some semblence of a life again. Death is irrevesible.

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at September 23, 2008 6:48 PM
Comment #264049

Jim M
First, your premise that new trials will lead to an innocent verdict - the case I am familiar with the second trial only resulted in a change of sentence from death to life with no possibility of parole. If the person is actually innocent (as several on death row have been found) then they deserve their freedom just as you and I do. That is in the case where the person is actually innocent. In the case of getting a sentence of death reduced if it is like my state and they get life without parole that’s exactly what they get.

What do you tell the family if someone who was convicted of murder gets out and kills again? There is no apology that will do in these cases and no compensation that will ever be enough. That is a horrible situation but has little too do with the death penalty. In fact, most of your questions have little to do with the death penalty and more to do with the criminal justice system in general. If we didn’t have nonviolent offenders clogging up our prison system we could more easily handle the truly violent. So while we have white-collar criminals and drug users in jail, we will have overcrowded prisons. Without overcrowding we wouldn’t have as many violent criminals on the streets.

If there isn’t evidence to convict someone we can’t imprison them because we think they are guilty or they look guilty.

I think the death penalty is different from life because there is no going back. Yes, submariner, there are a lot more innocent people serving life than on death row but I don’t think anyone is saying that we release them arbitrarily. There is an appeals process that needs to be followed. if they are proven not guilty then they should go free. I think we also need a better justice system that isn’t racist as it is in some areas and is populated with prosecutors interested in justice and not just getting convictions.

One of the costs of living in a free society is a certain amount of insecurity whether it be from violent criminals or terrorists. Ditching the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for the illusion of security is a losing proposition. I would rather not live in a police state.

Posted by: tcsned at September 23, 2008 7:11 PM
Comment #264074

I know after watching fox tonight that they’re going to go for the Dukakis moment. ” What would you do if your wife was raped.” They’re going to look for that kind of dig. See if he puts out a “nuanced” answer…. instead of saying “kill the guy”!

If Mc.Cain pulls it in this generation, I don’t think it would work as well… At least we can hope.

Posted by: bandman at September 24, 2008 12:54 AM
Comment #264075

I see that a stay has been granted, until Monday when another request for retrial is to be considered.
It was just a short bit that I barely caught.

Posted by: janedoe at September 24, 2008 1:22 AM
Comment #264101

Honest -

I wonder what study said the death penalty is a deterrent? I’ve seen studies before saying the opposite…but in either case were the statisticians biased? I don’t know. I DO know this - that perhaps we should look at all the other countries that DO have the death penalty and all the countries that DON’T have the death penalty…and see which countries have a lower crime rate and less corruption. It is only then that we can see clearly whether the death penalty works…and I really don’t think you’ll do this because you already know what you’ll find.

Jim M -

I can understand the questions you ask…but your questions are based on what if killers are set free…whereas we KNOW some are wrongly convicted and executed. Here is a list of 130 inmates freed from death row. Only 17 of those were due to DNA evidence. The death penalty may satisfy one’s sense of justice…but we are human, and such ‘justice’ is NOT equal no matter how much we might think otherwise.

submariner -

Good to see you! Concerning the death penalty and abortion, please remember that NObody - even us pro-choicers - like abortion. It’s tragic…and it is often unnecessary. BUT we are speaking not of the benefit of one individual life, or even of hundreds of thousands of lives, but of the nation as a whole. What is best for America?

Didja read ‘Freakonomics’? It’s on the ‘Recommended Reading List’ for Naval officers. The authors do a very good job at presenting facts without preaching their own opinions. They point out that the first five states who allowed abortion after Roe v Wade were also the first five states who showed a significant drop in the violent crime rate back in the nineties…right when those aborted would have reached their mid- to late teens. Just something to think about.

What’s more, we agree that there are certainly tens of thousands of families waiting to adopt. Let’s be generous and say there’s a hundred thousand families waiting to adopt. Will each of these families be willing to take in THIRTEEN unwanted children? You see, last year there were about 1.3 million abortions…and so every year there would be a like number of children needing parents. Even if three hundred thousand women decided to keep instead of abort, that would still leave a million unwanted children with a shrinking number of homes available for them…another million, every single year.

Abortion is not something you or I like. It IS tragic. But is it better for America as a whole? I suggest you look at a list of countries who do allow abortion, and those who do not…and then check the corruption level of those countries. You’ll find - generally speaking - that countries that allow abortion have significantly lower crime and corruption rates than those which do not allow abortion.

Most of Africa, South America, and Central America do not allow abortion. China and India DO, but their corruption and crime stems more from communism (in China’s case) and crushing overpopulation (in both cases).

Posted by: Glenn Contrarian at September 24, 2008 11:39 AM
Comment #264123

In another forum where I posted this topic, someone asked - and I paraphrase - with all of the crises we face at this time, who really cares about justice for one man? I have lost my sense of proportion.

Here is my reply:

Thank you for daring to ask the salient question! And I do mean that sincerely. Why indeed should I focus on the case of one man? That question is in fact in the back of my head when I write these articles. With injustice rampant around the globe, wars ravaging hundreds of thousands, millions dying from hunger, fundamental rights denied those who are not in power, and a whole host of issues here in the United States that impact huge swaths of our population, and indeed nearly every one of us ultimately - What does it matter?

Why Troy Anthony Davis?

I am pleased to answer that question.

We tout our system of justice as exemplary and fair and deliberative. “Innocent until proven guilty”; “everyone gets their day in court”; “the blind eye of justice”; “justice will be served”; American justice should be among the best in the world. Now, of course there will be hiccoughs - instances where local corruption perverts the proper delivery of justice.

If the case of Troy Anthony Davis were only that - a rare and local instance, where perhaps overzealous prosecutors coerced witness testimony - then you would be right to suggest that my focusing on it would be a disservice to more important topics for discussion.

I don’t believe it is a hiccough.

For me, Davis’ case is symptomatic of a number of fundamental problems with criminal justice in the United States. Yes it is extraordinary in bringing together many of these issues in one case, but that is what makes it noteworthy.

Now let me quickly add here that there is also a lot that is right about our system of justice. There are many extraordinarily talented police officers and detectives who follow the book and get good results, and many fine and talented prosecutors and judges who combine knowledge of the law with an earnest desire to serve justice who are a credit to our system.

But I believe there are some systemic issues and prevailing mistaken attitudes which are poisoning our system, and this case highlights a number of them.

Capital Punishment
The most obvious for most readers is the very presence of capital punishment. For me it is not the most important issue here - but it is clearly the one which speaks loudest to the most.

When there is a chance (and there is always a debate in quantifying that) that the convicted person facing extermination might be innocent, would we not be better off simply taking the death penalty off the list of possible punishments, as have most of the worlds nations?

Pressure to Gain Convictions
Next there is a pervasive attitude which prioritizes conviction over justice. Whether it is haste and impatience, or an ego driven desire to run up the number of convictions one can claim, there is little denying that many in law enforcement and prosecution succumb to the pressure to solve every case, and are too willing to overlook contravailing evidence which might suggest that their first suspicion was wrong. Now some of that is just human nature, which is bound to show up in any system of justice. But I contend that a renewed emphasis on the deliberative intent of our justice system, and a reduction in incentive to just find somebody to charge and convict, could go a long way toward reducing the haste which often results in wrongful convictions.

This is the area where I see the issue as being far broader than just the case of Troy Anthony Davis. In fact the capital punishment aspect of his case unfortunately obscures a much broader issue. How many innocent people (regardless of whether Davis is innocent or not), are suffering the grave and extraordinary punishment of spending years or the rest of their lives behind bars, simply because some cop, or prosecutor, or judge, or jury, or combination thereof, was too impatient to come to a conclusion which resolved the case? How much have we as a society lost by not having these people be productive members of society rather than a drain on our resources?

This is not just the fault of law enforcement and the courts. We really are all to blame for bringing this pressure on the system to come up with convictions, no matter whether they are correct.

Resistance to Correct Miscarriages of Justice
It has always been one of my pet peeves, that once convicted, justice usually becomes anything but swift when newly uncovered contravailing evidence suggests that we might have locked up the wrong person. Troy Davis’ case highlights this concern strongly. It is plain to me that there was sufficient contravailing evidence early in this case to suggest that a new trial should have been granted at any of numerous points along the way. When such evidence is strong enough, I believe that is cause for the immediate release of the prisoner. We now have technology such as electronic ankle bracelets which could serve as a precaution against the suspect skipping town before their new trial. If Davis gets a
new trial, and his conviction is overturned, then assuming that he is innocent, he still would have suffered a very grave injustice. Based on the percentage of cases which have been overturned with exonerating DNA evidence as a result of the Innocence Project, we have every reason to suspect that there are a large number of prisoners who are wrongly incarcerated in these United States.

Racism / Classism / Influence
Finally it is never wrong to point out that we must always struggle to keep justice blind, and avoid the influence of race, class, and position in both who law enforcement suspects, and how we administer justice, and how we sentence the convicted. It is impossible to eliminate influence, no matter how perfect a system of justice might be. But eliminating such influence should be the beacon for which we aim, and evidence as shown by the statistics of who is incarcerated, and who isn’t, strongly indicates that we fall far short of the mark.

Individual stories make for compelling cases which individual readers can comprehend. I find the case of Troy Anthony Davis to be compelling. No doubt that is partly because I am a native Georgian, and also because I have heard the compelling testimony of his sister broadcast on my community radio station here in the Seattle area. I am pleased that the U. S. Supreme Court has given him a reprieve from his sentence, at least until next Monday when they decide whether or not to hear his last appeal, and if they do until they resolve the case.

The individual story allows the reader to connect at a more personal level with issues which we all should be concerned with. The media often gives undue attention to certain cases because of their celebrity or sensationalism, whether that be O. J. Simpson, Jon Benet Ramsey, or Paris Hilton. Those cases often distract us from more important issues.

I contend that in contrast to those, the case of Troy Anthony Davis has the potential to bring our attention to issues worth facing. If we care about our system of justice, then we all should care.

Posted by: Walker Willingham at September 24, 2008 1:31 PM
Comment #264219

Glenn:

Nice to see you too!! I am glad that my response to the “pro-life” comment did not hijack this thread. This issue is too important to be treated in that manner. I attempted to post a rebuttal on the abortion issue in another thread, but it still has not been allowed. I will wait until an approiate thread is started to respond. Thanks for the comments though. I hope we can have some discussions later.

Walker:

Excellent follow up to your article. Your words should give all of us something to ponder. Great job!!!

Posted by: submarinesforever at September 24, 2008 7:39 PM
Comment #264226

This kind of problem doesn’t exist without the death penalty. It is a waste of time to continually go over these cases when eliminating the death penalty takes the worry out of it.

Posted by: ohrealy at September 24, 2008 8:47 PM
Comment #265134

Thank you for your intriguing post on this highly significant issue which, before, was unknown to me. I do feel as though our criminal justice system is formatted under a more punitive model, which focuses more upon putting to justice those who are believed to have committed crimes. However, sometimes this belief of fairness, punishment and retribution clouds the idea of putting the correct person to justice. This case in particular seems to be extremely controversial, as you have stated that although there was “no physical evidence [that] tied him to the murder” and a “credible different suspect for the crime,” the overwhelming number of witnesses testifying otherwise leaves the court in a difficult deciding position. Because of this fact, I agree with your questioning on what’s the rush? Particularly in cases involving the death penalty, courts are very meticulous in their efforts to ensure their actions are justified before putting a person to death. In this case, especially in regards to the fact that there seems to be large controversy and confusion, it seems bizarre that they would be set upon his execution before re-trialing him. However, although I agree with your ideas, you present the idea that there should be much care taken whether an innocent man was convicted of a crime “which substantial evidence seems to indicate was committed by someone else.” To this I ask, not knowing much about the case, whether the evidence, rather than pointing the finger at another individual, simply points the finger possibly away from Davis. Also, our criminal justice system makes a point in putting a great deal of attention to each of their cases. Although we now ask why they are rushing towards a decision in regards to Davis, I find myself also asking how long the Davis case has been an issue for the courts. Seeing as though there are innumerable cases facing the courts and it becomes their civic duty to make a decision in the name of the American public, after years of deliberation, there comes a point where all the evidence has been presented and they are required to make a decision. So, perhaps in this case, the court finds itself at a point where they feel the evidence leans in favor of one course of action over another and they are acting upon such decision.

Posted by: Kim Nguyen at September 30, 2008 5:00 AM
Comment #269224

TROY DAVIS, PLEASE REMEMBER THAT AMERICA IS NOT THE OLD SOUTH ~ AFRICA !!!


A $TATE ECONOMIC BOYCOTT OF GEORGIA INTERNATIONALLY WILL OBVIOU$LY BE THE END RE$ULT OF GEORGIA DECIDING TO MURDER A PO$$IBLE INNOCENT TROY DAVI$ WITHOUT A NEW AND FAIR TRIAL ?

US CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS WHO ARE ALSO LAWYERS BY TRADE, CONTINUE TO DENY poorer AMERICAN’S PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION !!!

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY NEEDS TO BEGIN A FORMAL INVESTIGATION INTO THESE US CONGRESSIONAL CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS BEING INFLICTED ON poorer AMERICAN’S LIKE MR.TROY DAVIS OF GEORGIA !!!

HAVING BEEN DENIED APPEAL LAWYERS FOR THREE YEARS ON DEATH ROW IN GEORGIA MR. TROY DAVIS IS NOW BEING EXECUTED FOR A CRIME HE MIGHT NOT HAVE EVEN BEEN INVOLVED WITH !!!

SENATOR OBAMA PLEASE LET THIS COUNTRIES VOTERS KNOW YOUR FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT A NEEDED FUTURE REPAIR AND RENOVATION OF OUR BROKEN JUDICIAL SYSTEM THAT CONTINUES TO ALLOW THE EXECUTION’S OF EVEN POSSIBLE INNOCENT AMERICAN’S LIKE TROY DAVIS OF GEORGIA ?????

BEING THE WEALTHIEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD SENATOR OBAMA, DON’T WE NEED AS THE LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD TO BEGIN ONCE AGAIN TO RE-INVEST THE PROPER MONIE$ IN OUR OWN US JUDICIAL SYSTEM, ASSURING ALL OF OUR CITIZENS THEIR RIGHTS TO FAIR TRIALS WITH PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION ???

DOES GOD NEED TO LOBBY OUR US CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD ON BEHALF OF OUR poorer american’s SENATOR OBAMA,OR ARE YOU WATCHING OUT FOR THEM ??

***OUR US CONGRESS CONTINUES TO DENY MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION EVEN THOUGH WRONGFUL EXECUTIONS & FALSE INCARCERATIONS CONTINUE ALL ACROSS AMERICA ???

*** 700 BILLION $$$ AVAILABLE FOR US BAILOUT, & NO $$$ FOR ALL POORER AMERICANS PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION ? SENATOR OBAMA, THIS JUDICIAL INJUSTICE HAS BECOME AN AMERICAN ART FORM, AND NO LONGER CAN BE KEPT HIDDEN OR SECRET FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE EVEN IF CERTAIN (501c3) U$ RELIGIOU$ LEADER$ HAVE BEEN $ILENCED ??

LETS ALL HOPE OUR MEDIA FRIENDS CONTINUE TO SHOW AN INTEREST IN REPORTING ON THIS AMERICAN HORROR FACING THESE (TENS OF THOUSANDS) FORGOTTEN AND TRAPPED POORER AMERICANS, AND HOW THIS PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER HANDLES THIS VERY SERIOUS ISSUE FACING AMERICA’S LATINO AND BLACK AMERICAN COMMUNITIES ????

WITH 80% OF THE BLACK AMERICAN VOTERS SAYING THEY SUPPORT SENATOR OBAMA IN THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, IT IS ONLY FAIR FOR EVERYONE TO KNOW PRIOR BEING ELECTED OUR NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES HOW THIS DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TRULY FEELS ABOUT THIS AMERICAN JUDICIAL INJUSTICE CONTINUING TO INFLICT GRAVE HARM ON THE BLACK & LATINO AMERICAN FAMILIES AND THEIR COMMUNITIES NATIONWIDE ??????

*** WHEN GOD’S FACE BECAME VERY RED *** THE US SUPREME COURT GAVE ENEMY COMBATANTS FEDERAL APPEAL HC RIGHTS LAWYERS AND PROPER ACCESS TO US FEDERAL COURTS,AND POORER AMERICANS (MANY EVEN ON DEATH ROW) ARE DENIED PROPER FEDERAL APPEAL LEGAL REPRESENTATION TO OUR US FEDERAL COURTS OF APPEAL, AND ROTTING IN AMERICAN PRISONS NATIONWIDE ?????????

**** INNOCENT AMERICANS ARE DENIED REAL HC RIGHTS WITH THEIR FEDERAL APPEALS ! THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE $LOWLY FINDING OUT HOW EA$Y IT I$ FOR MIDDLE CLA$$ AND WORKING POOR AMERICAN$ TO FALL VICTIM TO OUR U$ MONETARY JUDICIAL $Y$TEM.

****WHEN THE US INNOCENT WERE ABANDONED BY THE GUILTY **** The prison experts have reported that there are 100,000 innocent Americans currently being falsely imprisoned along with the 2,300,000 total US prison population nationwide.

***WHERE ARE AMERICA’S RELIGIOUS LEADERS ??????? Since our US Congress has never afforded poor prison inmates federal appeal legal counsel for their federal retrials,they have effectively closed the doors on these tens of thousands of innocent citizens ever being capable of possibly exonerating themselves to regain their freedom through being granted new retrials.

This same exact unjust situation was happening in our Southern States when poor and mostly uneducated Black Americans were being falsely imprisoned for endless decades without the needed educational skills to properly submit their own written federal trial appeals.

This devious and deceptive judicial process of making our poor and innocent prison inmates formulate and write their own federal appeal legal cases for possible retrials on their state criminal cases,is still in effect today even though everyone in our US judicial system knows that without proper legal representation, these tens of thousands of innocent prison inmates will be denied their rightful opportunities of ever being granted new trials from our federal appeal judges!!

Sadly, the true US *legal* Federal Appeal situation that occurs when any of our uneducated American prison inmates are forced to attempt to submit their own written Federal Appeals (from our prisons nationwide) without the assistance of proper legal counsel, is that they all are in reality being denied their legitimate rights for Habeas Corpus with our US FEDERAL COURTS and will win any future Supreme Court Case concerning this injustice!

For our judicial system and our US Congressional Leaders Of The Free World to continue to pretend that this is a real and fair opportunity for our American Middle Class and Working Poor Citizens, only delays the very needed future change of Federal Financing of all these Federal appeals becoming a normal formula of Our American judicial system.

It was not so very long ago that Public Defenders became a Reality in this country.Prior that legal reality taking place, their were also some who thought giving anyone charged with a crime a free lawyer was a waste of taxpayers $$.

This FACADE and HORROR of our Federal Appeal proce$$ is not worthy of the Greatest Country In The World! ***GREAT SOCIETIES THAT DO NOT PROTECT EVEN THEIR INNOCENT, BECOME THE GUILTY !

A MUST READ ABOUT AMERICAN INJUSTICE:
1) YAHOO 2) GOOGLE
(MANNY GONZALES THE KID THAT EVERYONE FORGOT IN THE CA PRISON SYSTEM.) ** A JUDICIAL RIDE OF ONES LIFE !

***Someone please tell our US Congress that the GED degree that Manny Gonzales acquired in prison is not a LAW DEGREE !!!!!!

lawyersforpooramericans@yahoo.com (424-247-2013)

Posted by: DOUGLAS FIELD at November 2, 2008 5:55 PM
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