When organizations from Amnesty International to a former Republican congressman says something is terribly, terribly wrong with an execution going forward, I tend to sit up and take note. The DNA exonerations of the last decade which led many governors from both parties to put a halt on execution have cast real doubt on the fairness of our "justice" system. In Massachusetts, WWII hero Louis Greco died in prison after doing 30 years for a murder he did not commit, and which the Feds knew he did not commit all along, and framed him for it. He was exonerated posthumously after Judge Nancy Gertner awarded his and other families the largest settlement for wrongful prosecution in American history, $101 million. If you've seen Scorcese's "The Departed" it loosely depicts the Boston gang, including FBI agents, in whose machinations Louis was caught.
More recently, the Supreme Court bent over backward to deny a damages award to John Thompson, who spent 14 years on Death Row and came within weeks of execution because prosecutors hid a blood test and other evidence that would have proven his innocence.
What kind of country are we living in now?
In 2001, Texas Defender Service issued it's report, A State of Denial: Texas Justice and the Death Penalty. The report's Chapter 9, Bitter Harvest, examined the cases of six men executed by Texas in spite of serious questions of innocence at the time of their executions: David Wayne Spence, Robert Nelson Drew, Gary Graham, Odell Barnes Jr., Richard Wayne Jones, and David Stoker. Although George Bush once said famously as governor of Texas: "As far as I'm concerned, there has not been one innocent person executed since I've been governor.''
And Saddam Hussein can hit the United States with nucyular weapons in as little as 45 minutes.
Former Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Charles Baird disagreed with Bush:
" We've had such an enormous amount of executions that it's difficult to believe that the system worked flawlessly in all of those cases. I don't share governor Bush's confidence in the judicial system. When I was on the court, I saw a lot of faulty trials from overzealous prosecutors and police officers."
Now calls are going out for citizens to call for a halt to the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia. Twenty years ago, Troy Davis was convicted of killing a police officer. Since then, seven of the nine witnesses recanted their statements, and new witnesses have stepped forward identifying another man as the murderer..
The state of Georgia is keeping Davis on track to be executed as early as next month.
Instead of a new trial, Davis was forced to face a single federal judge where the burden was on Davis to prove his innocence -- the exact opposite presumption of a jury trial. Despite acknowledging that the case against Davis was not "ironclad," the judge refused to grant a new trial.
From the updated Wiki entry:
Amnesty International condemned the decision to deny clemency, and the executive director of Amnesty International USA, added: "The U.S. Supreme Court must intervene immediately and unequivocally to prevent this perversion of justice." Former President (and Georgia Governor) Jimmy Carter released a public letter in which he stated "Executing Troy Davis without a real examination of potentially exonerating evidence risks taking the life of an innocent man and would be a grave miscarriage of justice."...A stay of execution was also supported by the NAACP; the president of the Georgia state conference said "This is a modern-day lynching if it's allowed to go forward." Former Republican Congressman and presidential candidate Bob Barr wrote that he is "a strong believer in the death penalty as an appropriate and just punishment," but that the proper level of fairness and accuracy required for the ultimate punishment has not been met in Davis' case.
It used to be the standard in America was "beyond reasonable doubt" for a conviction for a crime, nevermind execution. But in the new America, Bushbama's America, we have ample evidence of where the new attitude stems from. In dissenting from the US Supreme Court order which gave Davis the hearing before the single federal judge, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, Scalia said that the U.S. Constitution guarantees only a fair trial, but that actual innocence is irrelevant:
This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is "actually" innocent.
But if innocence is irrelevant, what makes the trial "fair?" Scalia is the guy who would stay stone-faced and unmoved by the irony of the Old West call: "Give 'im a fair trial then hang him!"
The question is not just why is Troy Davis scheduled for execution, but why has the man in the black robe not been put into a straitjacket and removed from the court after making this statement, for proving himself to be irretrievably, bat-sh*t crazy?
There is only one thing we know about these kinds of cases, even if we are not fully schooled on the particulars. There are do-overs.
The Office of the Governor
State of Georgia
203 State Capitol
Atlanta, Georgia 30334