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Troy Davis and the Supreme Decision

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Posted on Sep 24, 2008

By Amy Goodman

  Troy Anthony Davis was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday. Two hours before the state of Georgia was to execute him, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay until Monday. It had earlier agreed to hear Davis’ case on Sept. 29, but Georgia set his execution date six days before the hearing.

  Davis was charged with killing Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, in Savannah, Ga., in 1989. Davis had gone to the aid of a homeless man who was being pistol-whipped in a parking lot. Seeing the gun, he said he fled. MacPhail, working security nearby, intervened next, and was killed. Davis, an African-American, claimed his innocence, but was found guilty and sentenced to death. Since his conviction, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony, alleging police coercion and intimidation in obtaining their testimony. By coming forward and recanting, they face serious repercussions, possibly jail time. Some have identified a different man as the shooter. This man is one of Davis’ remaining accusers.

  In July 2007, Davis faced his first execution date. Just a day before he was to be executed, the Georgia Pardons Board granted a stay of execution for up to 90 days. Then, Davis’ attorneys argued before the Georgia Supreme Court for a retrial or for a hearing to present new evidence. The requests were denied, by a 4-to-3 vote. In the same period, the U.S. Supreme Court was weighing whether death by lethal injection constituted cruel and unusual punishment (the court ultimately allowed its use).

  The U.S. Supreme Court will consider Monday whether it will take on Davis’ case. If it decides not to, he very likely will be executed.

  Among Davis’ defenders is former President Jimmy Carter. He said: “This case illustrates the deep flaws in the application of the death penalty in this country. 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.” Georgia Congressman John Lewis also supports Davis. I spoke with Lewis at Invesco Field in Denver, just before Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. It was 45 years to the date after the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream” speech.

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  Lewis recalled that historic day: “We were in Washington, more than 250,000 of us, black and white, Protestant, Catholic, Jews, people of different background, rich and poor. ... In many parts of the South, people could not register to vote, simply because of the color of their skin. And we changed that.”

  Yet this week, in light of Davis’ plight, Lewis told me: “In spite of all of the progress that we’ve made as a nation and as a people, we still have so far to go. The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in every corner, in every aspect of the American society.” He went on to say, when I pointed out that Sen. Obama himself supports the death penalty: “It is troublesome. You know ... someplace along the way, some of us must have the courage to say—and I’m moving closer and closer to this point—that in good conscience, I cannot and will not support people who support the death penalty. I think it’s barbaric, and it represents the Dark Ages. .... I don’t think as human beings, I don’t think as a nation, I don’t think as a state, we have the right to take the life of another person. That should be left for the Almighty to do.”

  The death penalty is a noxious and racist practice. According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, of more than 3,300 people on death row in the U.S., over 41 percent are African-American—more than three times their representation in the general population. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973 there have been 130 people exonerated—people wrongly sentenced to death—in 26 different states, including five exonerated on death row in Georgia. Evidence even suggests that at least four innocent people have been executed in recent years. There is no physical evidence in the Troy Davis case. After the stay was announced, Davis asked his mother to have people pray for the MacPhail family, and to keep working to dismantle this unjust system. He told her he wouldn’t be fighting this hard for his life if he were guilty. This is a case of reasonable doubt. Troy Davis deserves a new trial.

  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America.

  © 2008 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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By tres, September 26, 2008 at 10:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To: Inherit The Wind

What do you know about China’s legal system? Your cheap shot does not make you morally superior, it makes you look the same like one of those racists.

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By moineau, September 25, 2008 at 8:10 pm Link to this comment

“and we don’t seem all that concerned about a failed system that allows for innocents to slip through the cracks either.”

it’s got to be denial (mixed in with ignorance). but, and i hate to bring this up (but), i think there is that judeo-christian tinge to it all, not purely christian, but judeo-christian. “an eye for an eye”? isn’t that an OLD TESTAMENT directive? didn’t jesus want the sword laid aside and the other cheek turned? judge not for ye shall be judged? let those of you who have cast the first stone… etc etc. we need to keep talking to obama about this one.

it’s ideological, be it religious or political. we’re #5 with saudi arabia, china, iran, saudi arabia and pakistan. great company! that alone should make us question our position. but i doubt whether the american people have heard about the company we keep.

i’m always interested in the work you’ve done, cyrena. texas, 17 years, yes, i can see the outrage, enough to turn one into molly ivers! and yes, even in the case of the guilty, it’s horrible. ty xoxox

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By cyrena, September 25, 2008 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment

Hi Laura,

I’d forgotten that you’d told me before, that you were in Oregon. So, not so far from me here in Southern Calif, though I’ve not been in your vicinity for a few years now. (took the train up a few years ago to Vancouver, part of an effort in the re-importation of pharmaceuticals).

In regard to these death penalty cases, I have worked on teams in the past, and even when the defendants/death row inmates are ‘guilty as charged’, I’ve still been emotionally and physically drained each time. The last time I spent so much time and energy was for the Karla Faye Tucker case, (keep in mind that I lived in Texas for several years; 17 in fact, which is enough to drive any sane person crazy) and that pretty much did me in. There is simply NO REASON why a supposedly civilized society continues to engage in such state sponsored brutality.

So of course, when we KNOW that some of these people who have been executed over the years, are in fact NOT guilty, that just makes it all the more heinous. If even ONE innocent person is executed, it means that this system (the justice system) is completely broken. The sad thing is, (and I’ve learned this through my own field of study, Law & Society) that the American public obviously WANTS it that way. Why else would we have it? There was a long moratorium on the death penalty for awhile..back in the 70’s. But, when given a chance to re-instate it, the population said YES! Yes!. We are a punitive and vindictive society, but unfortunately, we fail to punish the real criminals among us, and we don’t seem all that concerned about a failed system that allows for innocents to slip through the cracks either.

Very depressing.

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By Andreas Klamm Journalist, Radio IBS Liberty, September 25, 2008 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

Dear moineau !

Thank you for making me aware that I have mistyped the name of our media project web site. In 2006 I became beside some other authors and journalista the co-founder of the media projects “Human Rights Reporters” (which means in the German language Medienprojekt Die MenschenrechtsReporter). Since 1986 I am working both in the United Kingdom and in Germany and sometimes I do get confused with mixing all parts of different languages.

Since October 2006 we have created a documentation of more then 150 serious serious cases of abuses of Human Rights against people in many different places in this world including the killing of fellow journalists.

On our blog site the information are partial provided in the English and German language.

On the main site you will find the reports mainly in the German language. The content is in the process of being translated in the English language. May some of the FREE internet translation service will help until we will have completed the manual (human) translation.

Our international team is observing the case of Mr. Troy Davis and related activities.

As I have stated earlier, I am against the death penalty.

Our independent and international media projects are OPEN and FREE to everyone to participate. We mainly to communicate in the English language.  So you could be right that other people want to know about these things.

The CORRECTION of the website address:

http://www.menschenrechtsreporter.blogspot.com

150 cases since October 2006:

http://www.britishnewsflash.de/f37-Medienprojekt-Die-Menschenrechts-Reporter.html

Thank you !

Andreas Klamm, journaist, broadcasting host of
3mnewswire.org / director of IBS Independent Broadcasting Serivce Liberty, Radio IBS Liberty
IBS Television Liberty

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By moineau, September 25, 2008 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

andreas, i’m sure you wanted people to read your publication, so letting you know that your link did not work, probably a typo. ~lt

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By Andreas Klamm, Journnalist, September 25, 2008 at 9:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The death penalty is wrong. I have seen the Democracy Now ! Report, signed the petition. Especially in the case of Mr. Troy Davis there seems to be more evidence, that Mr. Troy Davis is innocent. Rep. Mr. John Lewis so far as I do remember has sad, that no innocent man should be killed. It a much higher duty to save the life of a man or woman, instead to destroy of a life or woman. Rep. Mr. John Lewis said also, that we should leave unto GOD Almighty if and WHEN a person is going to die. For it is written in the Holy Scriptures (Bible) “Thou shalt not kill”.

I do agree Amy Goodman and the Democracy Now!-Team has covered a story about a very important issue. As the responsible editor and of founder I had to make the decision to cover the sad story on the international Media Project “Human Rights Reporter” on http://www.menschenrechtsreporter.blogspost.com. We have covered this story. Thanks be unto all people which took a stand for democracy, liberty and peace and to save the life of man which seems to be innocent.

Martin Luther King is one of my favorite speakers. It is very sad that some one killed this man and it still hurts.

It is very good that there is program such as Democracy Now! and excellent journalists such as Amy Goodman is one.

Andreas Klamm, Journalist, broadcasting host of 3mnewswire.org, XXL-info. Compact, founder of IBS Independent Broadcasting Service Liberty, Radio IBS Liberty, IBS Television Liberty (since 1986) international news desk and services.

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By nobozos, September 25, 2008 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

In stubbornly hanging on the the death penalty, we keep company with China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and most of the other scummiest, most repressive world nations.

137 more enlightened countries have abolished the death penalty for any reason, and many won’t extradite people to the U.S. because we seem to like it too much.

We like it so much in fact, prosecutors all over America continue to balk at reopening cases with new evidence or cases tried before DNA testing was available.

We disgust me.

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By moineau, September 25, 2008 at 3:33 am Link to this comment

hey, cyrena. i’m in astoria, oregon lol two hours from portland; the friend i mention was here, now in wisconsin. i sent her the story and she was so moved by it, got involved w/ amnesty to get speaker on the radio there, wrote letters, general stuff, but the last day almost killed her emotionally and physically. i mention her particularly because she has chronic fatigue syndrome like me and i was so moved by how hard she worked to get the word out and generate more activity. where are you working from? did you see grit tv episode re: troy davis and the woman who spoke directly to obama via the camera re: death penalty? ty, cyrena.

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By cyrena, September 25, 2008 at 1:38 am Link to this comment

moineau, September 24 at 4:50 pm #

•  “…we were all relieved by the stay. a friend of mine in madison worked her heart out. hard to imagine being two hours from your execution and then receiving a stay, torturous.”

You’ve spoken my mind here moineau. It is a relief, (I hadn’t been able to sleep in the days leading up to this) and yes…torturous. I didn’t work on this, but I’ve been there before. I’m convinced that even with the stays, some parts of us (and certainly the prisoner) die anyway. It’s horrific for them and all. I’ve yet to reconcile how we continue to support such a system of state sponsored killings.

But, I’m curious that you mentioned a friend in Madison, since I don’t know of a Madison Georgia, (though there may be one) but I’m familiar with a Madison, North Carolina. Is that the area you’re in? Just curious, since it’s a small place.

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By moineau, September 24, 2008 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

we were all relieved by the stay. a friend of mine in madison worked her heart out. hard to imagine being two hours from your execution and then receiving a stay, torturous.

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By KDelphi, September 24, 2008 at 5:15 pm Link to this comment

The death penalty is primitivistic and wrong. I have seen the video, signed the petition, read abou it, and, I can honeslty say taht I think there is too much doubt.

If there is any doubt (and there is more than a little on this one), why not err on the side of life? I mean, you cannot “unkill” someone whom yu find out is innocent. You can always “kill them” later, if you have a hanckering need to.

GWB executed more people , in the state of Texas, as governor, than any other man inpower in the history of the uS. And now, Bush has gotten away with murdering 100s of 1000s.

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By Inherit The Wind, September 24, 2008 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

I found the arrogance of Georgia, in assuming it could circumvent the US Supreme Court, to kill a man when the evidence is compelling for a re-examination, to be disgusting and brutal.

But one thing the US Supreme Court NEVER takes kindly to is anyone trying to usurp the Court’s final power of review.  It is what turned William Rehnquist against George W. Bush and kept him on the Court till the day he died—Bush’s attempt to intimidate Federal judges into making decisions supported by HIM.

So it’s no surprise the Court issued a stay. It hasn’t decided whether or not it will hear the case.  So it is right and proper that it order Georgia to desist until the Court at least decided on whether to hear it. That’s simply due process and Georgia tried to prevent that.

If the Court doesn’t hear the case, he’s doomed. Even if it does, he may be doomed.  He may even be guilty.  But in a nation of Law, you don’t execute a man unless you convict him properly.  Troy Davis is like every American or visitor here: He deserves a fair and honest trial, even more so when his life is at stake.

If this was China there wouldn’t be a need.  Just a bullet in the back of the head and make the family pay for the bullet!  But that’s because China will kill 100 innocent people to get the one guilty one.  We’re supposed to better than that—we’re supposed to spare 100 guilty people to keep from killing an innocent one.

Where would you rather live?

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By nrobi, September 24, 2008 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment

The day of the murder, I can see Mr. Davis, running for his life.  In Georgia, to be black, is to be considered guilty until proven innocent.
In many ways, the prevailing winds of justice do not account for the fact that people are innocent and to prove a negative is very hard if not down right impossible.
America, has a supposed love affair with “justice,” yet to call the death penalty, just, is a complete abomination of the word. No longer does any civilized country call the death penalty just, it is revenge pure and simple, an eye for an eye! This is not the age of the Testament, in which, we have the need for killing by the state. But if we as a society were to continue this barbaric and medieval practice, then we must institute another practice that was given by the G-d of the Hebrews, safe cities.  These were cities where a person, could go who stood accused of a capital offense, where they would be safe and the authorities could sort out the mess and the person could live out his life if necessary in freedom and safety.
But our society, does not recognize the mercy of G-d, just the part of G-d that requires revenge and retribution for a “crime.”
All other civilized countries have done away with the barbarity of the death penalty and have legal systems based upon rehabilitation not retribution, but America still persists in the notion that revenge is necessary for crimes, and that list seems to grow longer as time goes on. There is now legislation before some of the Southern state houses to make more crimes, capital crimes. Yet concomitantly, the states do not increase their budgets for the defense of those accused of these crimes.
It is a woefully inadequate system of defense that exists, for the majority of those accused of capital crimes are substantially poor and disenfranchised from the system, this condition exists in the extreme in the Southern states and is used to its full advantage by those whose job it is to prosecute the “accused.”
Given these facts and many more, it is my considered opinion that the death penalty should be done away with and the criminal justice system remodeled, so that true justice can prevail and the law be a model of fairness and mercy rather than revenge and retribution.

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