Perhaps Troy Davis’ execution will become the cause that finally ends the Dark Ages of state-ordered executions in this country; of course, I thought that about the seven men (of fourteen total) released from death row in Illinois. When half the men awaiting execution in your state are found innocent or had prosecutions so flawed and tainted a guilty verdict is a sour joke, you’d think every state would be more circumspect in its use of the death penalty. But this is Kill Crazy America, or that part of it, mostly in the south, that still believes that the state committing premeditated murder somehow prevents people from committing the same crime or, at least, helps in ridding society of those the state determines are disposable, less-than-human monsters, as long as they aren’t politicians ordering young men and women to die in a needless war for profit or judges who allow the execution of innocent people for reasons of cynical ideological expedience. In Troy’s case, there was no physical evidence linking him to the killing of Savannah, GA, police officer Mark MacPhail; his conviction was strictly based on nine eyewitness accounts. Later, seven of the nine witnesses recanted and said they were coerced by police, and, of the two remaining witnesses, one is suspected to have been the actual killer. Three of the jurors who voted to convict Troy said if they had known about the recantations, they would have voted the other way, and even the warden of the Georgia prison where Davis was injected with a lethal combination of drugs didn’t think he should be executed. How this case went through appellate courts without any judge ordering, at the least, another trial, is beyond comprehension. (A federal judge did find, though, that the key testimony of a jailhouse snitch who said Davis confessed to the crime was “patently false.”) But this is Georgia and Davis was black and poor; had he been white or rich, it’s highly unlikely he would have landed on death row. No doubt all along its travels through the alimentary canal we call a ‘justice system’ judges were cognizant that if Davis was retried and found innocent, charges would have to be brought against police officers and possibly even prosecutors for coercing or suborning perjured testimony. Can’t have that — might lead to the public questioning the infallibility of the system and the death penalty itself. So the 42-year-old Davis died last night at 11:08 EST, another sacrifice to a ‘justice system’ that doesn’t care about justice — merely process, ideology, self-protection and convenience. The US Supreme Court took up a last-minute appeal to stay the execution until further evidence could be presented to the Supremes of Davis’ innocence, but that was dashed on the rocks of a Court where at least two members, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, believe as long as the accused has a ‘fair trial,’ subsequent evidence proving his or her innocence is immaterial. (Scalia and Thomas, incidentally, claim to be good Christians.) Davis, in his last moments, was more compassionate than our ‘system’ in that he forgave the guards who were about to take his life and tried to comfort the relatives of Mark MacPhail while imploring them to find the real killer. That doesn’t sound like the last words of a guilty man; just another innocent sacrifice to the assembly line of state-sponsored murder we laughingly call ‘justice.’
“In June, by a 5–4 margin, the Supreme Court ruled that a prisoner did not have a constitutional right to demand DNA testing of evidence in police files, even at his own expense. “A criminal defendant proved guilty after a fair trial does not have the same liberty interests as a free man,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts. And two months later, Justices Scalia and Clarence Thomas went even further when the Supreme Court ordered a new hearing in Troy Davis’s murder case, after seven of nine eyewitnesses recanted their testimony. Justice Scalia, dissenting from that order, wrote for himself and Thomas, “[T]his 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.”
— Dahlia Lithwick, “Why It’s Constitutional the Execute an Innocent Man,” Newsweek, Sept. 2, 2009.
“I am innocent,” Davis said moments before he was executed Wednesday night. “All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight.”
— “Troy Davis Executed; Supporters Cry Injustice” CBS/AP, Sept. 22, 2011.