The United States Supreme Court’s denial of a stay of execution in the case of Troy Davis, and the refusal of the State of Georgia to re-examine the case reveals our justice system to be without a heart. It is contrary to the spirit of the very principles that the nation was founded upon. And it is outright judicial murder.
The only explanation for the State of Georgia and the United States Judiciary to refuse to delay the execution of Troy Davis in order to examine recent evidence casting serious doubts as to his guilt is that in a technically legal sense, this matter has been fully litigated previously.
It is a procedurally correct decision but it is not one that comports at all with justice and with humanity. The illogic of the decision to kill Davis is palpable and glaringly evident to even the most dull-witted.
In recent weeks a woman associated with a person of equal interest to Davis for police and prosecutors, Roy Coles, has reportedly threatened that woman who has said she now knows Coles is the killer of the heroic police officer who came to the aid of a homeless man 22 years ago. Seven of nine witnesses have publicly recanted their testimony. The remaining two? One who won’t talk. And Coles, a man who had equal if not greater opportunity to have killed the officer himself.
The forensics evidence in the case is non-existent. Davis did admit and does admit he owned and possessed a .38 caliber revolver on the night of the murder of a police officer. Those firearms are common. The State of Georgia and Savannah police, where the crime occurred, never gained possession of the murder weapon making conclusive ballistic tests and evidence impossible. No DNA evidence links Davis to the crime, nor does it exist so a retesting of such forensic evidence employing more modern methods is not possible either.
How a prosecutor could obtain a conviction today, even with witnesses with perfect memories simply is beyond comprehension. The prosecutor in the case maintains he remains certain Davis is guilty. Police officers maintain that too. The family of the victim does also. That is understandable. The victim’s family has suffered this loss and grieved and looks for closure. The murder of anyone is the most serious crime. Murdering a law enforcement officer is more serious still merely because if law enforcement officers may be murdered with impunity no one is safe.
It has been said that the recantations of testimony by nearly all the witnesses, was and is not under oath in a court of law. That is true. Those statements are extra-judicial. And before Davis could be released or receive clemency a court of law would have to confront those very people who said they saw Davis murder the officer 22 years ago and at least in court under oath and penalty of perjury get them to admit they lied, or were mistaken. No one demanded that Davis simply be released minus a full re-examination of his conviction and sentencing. Nor does Struggles for Justice in such cases.
Historically, we have had the execution and railroading of Joe Hill in 1915, and the famous Sacco and Vanzetti case where a fair trial was certainly denied the two men and where even after all these years some ballistics evidence may point to Sacco but not Vanzetti. And there too a man named Morelli plead with prison officials and law enforcement to accept the fact that he and his gang had done the robbery that had led to murder in Braintree, Massachusetts. We have been down this road before.
Strangely, minus the theological and spiritual necessity in Christianity of the execution of Jesus of Nazareth to save guilty humankind from sin, we have just such another historic case of judicial murder. Troy Davis is not worthy of tying the sandal of Christ. Neither is anyone else. But is is interesting for the faith community in this nation to recall that two other murderers hung on crosses that day with Christ and that at least one of them had the moral integrity to offer his faith in God and in Jesus as his savior and was given the forgiveness of God even at that last extremity. Were either of those men innocent? Neither did protest their innocence.
The killing of Christ involved human passions and for those of us of faith something that was willed by God himself. Vengeance and fear inhabits all of us at some time in our lives.
Let the killing stop. The state must get out of the murder business. Davis had disinterested public defenders to defend him and make the early appeals of both his conviction and sentencing to death by chemical injection. He is poor. He is black. The case involved the murder of a police officer which makes it a murder of the most heinous kind.
The people who have recanted their eyewitness testmony in this case indicated police pressured them to testify against Davis. Some said they could not read the statements they were urged to sign by police. Those people were themselves black, and poor, and many feared being prosecuted and perhaps imprisoned themselves.
Even in the wake of the execution of Troy Davis the Department of Justice and the State of Georgia should take a close look into how police settled upon Davis and just how witnesses may have been coached to tell police, and later the court that Davis was the murderer.
Struggles for Justice does not know for certain of the guilt or innocence of this man. But one denial of appeal was on the basis that Troy Davis had not “proven his innocence.” That is a perversion of the presumption of innocence that is or was at the core of our legal system.
Struggles for Justice and the Chief Editor of the site Dr. Thomas Martin Sobottke opposes the death penalty in all cases. It is barbaric and lowers the state and the people of the nation to the level of the perpetrator of the original crime. It is contrary to God’s commandment and the teachings of so many religious teachings beyond Jesus of Nazareth.
Of course if someone murdered a person close to you your emotional anger, denial, outrage, bargaining with God, craving for justice would distort your thinking rationally. We understand that.
Organizations following death penalty cases tell us that three-fourths of such cases which primarily or entirely rely on eyewitness testimony convict the wrong man or woman. Whre DNA evidence is available, and correctly applied, getting to the truth is much more certain. But even there mistakes are not only possible but documented.
Killing somebody for murdering another cannot be taken back or reversed should it be found that they were innocent after the fact. It’s why this case begged to be re-examined the execution halted until it could.
The case raises the most disturbing questions about our justice system and the efficacy of the death penalty itself. It is sure to be a national issue. For there are many more Troy Davis’s. The State of Illinois reviewed settled cases where the death penalty was involved when Northwestern University students and their professor submitted new evidence in five cases where it was learned that Illinois was going to execute innocent men. This so disturbed the Governor that all such executions were suspended there.
The Innocence Project has documented over 270 cases where a re-examination of DNA evidence alone has reversed convictions for murder. Seventeen were then on death row already. It makes a mockery of justice when we can often simply get it wrong and make such an irrevocable and immoral decision.
In Texas, Governor Rick Perry has executed some 226 people in just his time as Governor. Can we actually believe that all of them were certainly guilty of the crime of which they were accused? Common sense says in most cases they unfortunately were. But even five or ten or fifteen innocent people killed by the state for something they did not do and where a failure of our justice system is involved makes execution for murder immoral and unjust on its face.
Murderers deserve the denial of their liberty and segregation from the rest of lawful society to protect the people of our nation and for simple justice for the victims. Life without parole would permit a just re-examination of the emerging situation in Savannah where a woman revealed what she knew about Coles as the real murderer and has moved away to protect herself. Three jurors expressed bluntly the fact that knowing what they now know about the recantations of testimony and accusations of police coercing witnesses would have changed their verdict.
The judicial murder of an indifferent legal system of Troy Davis last night reveals justice without a heart, without a thirst for the truth, and for not adhering to the spirit of the law but merely the letter of the law in a perverse isolation from justice and right.
The United States incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth, without regard to population, system of government, or any other characteristic. Few nations maintain the death penalty, recognizing its fundamental inhumanity and immorality.
The Catholic Pope Benedict, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a very hard-nosed conservative Senator Jeff Sessions, former director of our FBI under Ronald Reagan, Former President Jimmy Carter, Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP, and so many others have begged our legal system to have the basic human sympathy and compassion to do justice to all in this case. They all have demanded a stay of execution and even clemency. In the case of the law and order Reagan appointee Sessions, he expressed serious doubt about the verdict.
The nation is shamed with this judicial killing last night. It is not a case of failing to seek justice for Officer McPhail and his long-suffering family in attempting to delay the execution of Davis.
It is the lack of interest of that justice system or even curiosity to wait to kill Davis until to so many of the witnesses who are now publicly for various reasons purjuring themselves and casting grave doubts on their testimony in court, and the suspicion that a live lead may have opened up with Coles in Savannah demands something better of us as a people.
That those who we trust to do justice in our name were so irresponsible as to deny common logic and any kind of compassionate humanity, merely seeking to follow legal procedure and being blind to all else is a terrible miscarriage of justice. It eats at the faith of our people in the system that brings us justice and guarantees us justice.