Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"And Justice For All"?

By BOB HERBERT Op-Ed Columnist New York Times 19 Sept 2008————
"Troy Davis, who was convicted of shooting a police officer to death in the parking lot of a Burger King in Savannah, Ga., is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.

There is some question as to his guilt (even the pope has weighed in on this case), but the odds of Mr. Davis escaping the death penalty are very slim. Putting someone to death whose guilt is uncertain is always perverted, but there’s an extra dose of perversion in this case. The United States Supreme Court is scheduled to make a decision on whether to hear a last-ditch appeal by Mr. Davis on Sept. 29. That’s six days after the state of Georgia plans to kill him.

Mr. Davis’s lawyers have tried desperately to have the execution postponed for those few days, but so far to no avail. Georgia is among the most cold-blooded of states when it comes to dispatching prisoners into eternity.

So the lawyers are now trying to get the Supreme Court to issue a stay, or decide before Tuesday on whether it will consider the appeal. No one anywhere would benefit from killing Mr. Davis on Tuesday, as opposed to waiting a week to see how the Supreme Court rules. So why the rush? The murder happened in 1989, and Mr. Davis has been on death row for 17 years. Six or seven more days will hardly matter.

Most of the time, the court declines to hear such cases.
If that’s the decision this time, Georgia can get on with the dirty business of taking a human life. If the court agrees to hear the appeal, it would have an opportunity to get a little closer to the truth of what actually happened on the terrible night of Aug. 19, 1989, when Officer Mark Allen MacPhail was murdered. He was shot as he went to the aid of a homeless man who was being pistol-whipped in the parking lot.

Nine witnesses testified against Mr. Davis at his trial in 1991, but seven of the nine have since changed their stories. One of the recanting witnesses, Dorothy Ferrell, said she was on parole when she testified and was afraid that she’d be sent back to prison if she didn’t agree to finger Mr. Davis. She said in an affidavit: 'I told the detective that Troy Davis was the shooter, even though the truth was that I didn’t know who shot the officer.' Another witness, Darrell Collins, a teenager at the time of the murder, said the police had ’scared’ him into falsely testifying by threatening to charge him as an accessory to the crime. He said they told him that he might never get out of prison. 'I didn’t want to go to jail because I didn’t do nothing wrong,' he said.

At least three witnesses who testified against Mr. Davis (and a number of others who were not part of the trial) have since said that a man named Sylvester 'Redd' Coles admitted that he was the one who had killed the officer. Mr. Coles, who was at the scene, and who, according to authorities, later ditched a gun of the same caliber as the murder weapon, is one of the two witnesses who have not recanted. The other is a man who initially told investigators that he could not identify the killer. Nearly two years later, at the trial, he testified that the killer was Mr. Davis.

So we have here a mess that is difficult, perhaps impossible, to sort through in a way that will yield reliable answers. (The jury also convicted Mr. Davis of a nonfatal shooting earlier that same evening on testimony that was even more dubious.) There was no physical evidence against Mr. Davis, and the murder weapon was never found. As for the witnesses, their testimony was obviously shaky in the extreme — not the sort of evidence you want to rely upon when putting someone to death.

In March, the State Supreme Court in Georgia, in a 4-to-3 decision, denied Mr. Davis’s request for a new trial. The chief justice, Leah Ward Sears, writing for the minority, said: 'In this case, nearly every witness who identified Davis as the shooter at trial has now disclaimed his or her ability to do so reliably.'

Amnesty International conducted an extensive examination of the case, documenting the many recantations, inconsistencies, contradictions and unanswered questions. Its report on the case drew widespread attention, both in the U.S. and overseas. William Sessions, a former director of the F.B.I., has said that a closer look at the case is warranted. And Pope Benedict XVI has urged authorities in Georgia to re-sentence Mr. Davis to life in prison.

Rushing to execute Mr. Davis on Tuesday [Sept. 23, 2008] makes no sense at all.————–"

Well, thanks to the work of some good human beings, like the folks in the Afrospear (See FNOTD), I think justice might be served. The victims family, of course, is convinced that the right man is on death row. But what if they are wrong? “It should have happened today,”.. but justice will be served.” Yes it will, but you have to give it a chance. Like Mr. Herbert said: "what's the rush?"

You really have got to ask yourself; what kind of country or state puts a human being to death when there is doubt about his guilt? What does that tell you about the state of Georgia, and the folks who are charged to administer justice there? I have no mercy for cop killers. None! But I don't know if Mr. Davis is one. I don't know if he pulled the trigger in the Burger King parking lot that day. And I can't condone putting a human being to death when there is still so much doubt about his guilt.

As a society, we still have such a long way to go. The scales of justice are still too imbalanced. The size of our pocket books and the color of our skins is often the deciding factor in what kind of justice we will get, and it shouldn't be that way. Sadly, here in A-merry-ca, that's just the way it is. Let us all hope that it's not that way for Troy Anthony Davis. Let us all hope that he at least gets a chance.


Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

Thanks for posting on Troy Davis, field. I posted on him as well. It's amazing. A guy was convicted and sentenced to be executed on the flimsiest of evidence: No fingerprints. No murder weapon. No DNA connecting Davis to the case. Almost eye witnesses, most of whom recanted their statements, most of whom said they were intimidated by the police to sign a paper that said Troy Davis was the murderer. One couldn't read. Another "witness," a guy named Coles, who says Davis was the killer, is said by some of the other witnesses to be the real killer.

Field, it looks like a white cop was killed and law enforcement rushed to arrest, convict and execute a black man, any black man. Justice had nothing to do with it.

Ellen Kimball said...

Hello field --

Comcast news has a report up now that this man has gotten a stay of execution.

Please go here:


Regards from Ellen Kimball

Swiff said...

Some neighborhoods in Roxbury were blanketed over the weekend with campaign literature from a white supremacist, anti-immigration group that bluntly raised the issue of race regarding presidential candidate Barack Obama, offending some recipients and angering Democratic leaders.

A flier left on driveways in a neatly packaged plastic envelope and distributed by a group named the League of American Patriots, with a Butler mailing address, questioned, "Do You Want A Black President?" and stated "Black Ruled Nations most unstable and violent in the world."


Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

Yes, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a reprieve so they can consider the appeal. I'm happy for that, but let's keep in mind the guy has already been in prison 15 years.

Given the sorry amount of evidence in the case, if the guy murdered was black, Troy Davis would probably be at home watching Sports Center.

Donald said...

After reading this post and a few links. I'll call this like I see it...Racism, pure Racism. How many times has this type of conviction been repeated?
The Innocence Project

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

Mumia all over again. If seven of nine witnesses recant and say they were coerced into giving false testimony upon which this man was convicted, isn't there a moral obligation to see justice done before determining guilt or innocence beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt?

What's Georgia trying to do; catch up with Texas as the state who fries their inmates in expeditious fashion?

Anonymous said...

The frustrating thing about cases like this, for me at least, is that in theory, I support the death penalty. I think there are reasons to use it.

But because race plays such a huge factor and because people have been put to death on such paltry evidence so often, I just don't think we as a nation are mature enough in this regard to use execution, not even for the clear-cut cases it should be used.

As long as the legal system is going to use it carelessly, it can't be used at all in my opinion. Which is a shame, because there are a few people who don't deserve to keep sucking air.

Anonymous said...

We always talk about McCain putting conservative justices on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, but lost in all the discussion is what might happen with the death penalty in this country, if, God forbid, he wins the election. As it stands now, I can think of four justices who probably won't be swayed one bit by all the new evidence in this man's case. We can only hope that the majority prevails.

RiPPa said...

I'm glad the Supremes came through for the brotherat the 11th hour. Even thought its temporary until Monday, hopefully something positive comes out of it.

I was watching the coverage on Democracy Now today, and they had his sister call in to the show. She said that he was told last night that he wasn;t gonna be able to have any witnesses at his execution. Like everybody, he's allowed 5 witneses, but even in death, the muthafuckas were/are denying him.

Stew said...

strange thing is that you do not see this all over the news, but they are still wondering where the little girl is.

Bob said...

Mindboggling. People are just trying to say his guilt isn't the sure thing as it seemed 15 years ago, so why the freakin' rush to execute him now? Who benefits? The cause of justice? He's already in prison.

It's ironic how states like Georgia & Texas, with their big talk about law & order, & death penalty, & everyone owns a gun for "self-defense" are no safer than anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

This country is going to hell. No wait - we're already in hell.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

What kind of country is this indeed?

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the U.S. the only "first world" country that still has the death penalty?

If so clearly it's not a deterrent as we have the highest violent crime rate in the "first world".

field negro said...

"This country is going to hell. No wait - we're already in hell."

Yep, all we need now is a handbasket.

"..strange thing is that you do not see this all over the news, but they are still wondering where the little girl is."

Great point stew.

Bob, I am against the death penalty, and this is just one of many reasons why. But even if you are for it, if you are a person of conscience (like you seem to be) you just cannot sit by and watch injustice being done.

blackinusa, thanks for giving folks the link to the "The Innocence Project" those people do som good work.

macdaddy, way to break it down. The guy has been in jail for 15 years for a crime he might not have commmitted, and he almost lost his life to boot. Go figure.

swiff, do you live in Baaastan?

Jody said...

If you are going to kill, kill alot and call it war. If you are going to steal, steal alot and call is business.

And we wonder why some young people have such a small regard for life.

I do not want the government killing anyone in my name!!!!!

Jody said...

OT, well kinda: These are my comrades!!!!

Iraq and Vietnam Veterans Occupy National Archives Building
"Arresting Bush and Cheney for war crimes will honor our oath to the Constitution," vets say.

Christopher said...

I remember reading how the Motherfucker from Midland relished Friday nights in the governors mansion because Friday is the night when the Huntsville prison would execute people.

Bush is a sick piece of shit.

The state of Texas under Bush also rejected spending $600 on DNA testing to make certain they had the correct person on the block. Bush warbled some BS about not wanting to second guess the jury's decision.

I always say, if you're going to execute someone for a crime, you'd better make damn sure you've got the correct person cuz' there's no coming back when the switch is thrown.

Anonymous said...

This was pushed really hard here in Atlanta, and althouh he's been granted a stay, he's not out of the woods yet. I just don't understand how anyone could sleep at night pushing for this man to die with so much doubt in the air.

Anonymous said...

NINE 9 witnesses people....NINE testified in open court they were sure beyond a reasonable doubt he did it!!!!

KILL the piece of SHIT!!!!!

and yes I'm from Texas where we don't play that :)

Jody said...

@anon 7:54....
Can you read? SEVEN! 7 of the nine have recanted and said they were pressured into testifying....

Your atty-tude is a big part of the problem. 1. Learn to Read 2. Learn to think!

boukman70 said...

Personally, I'm against the death penalty for more reasons to count, but mainly because I don't think the State should have that kind of power. So, the Court's stay does give me some hope--though slim--that they're just as flaming liberal as that crackhead Mormon, Mitt Romney, says they are.

And oh yeah, Field, that was tough what you said about McCain's arms. Don't you know he's a HERO!!! and a MAVERICK!!! who was TORTURED!!! in VIETNAM?!!! Based on that alone, he deserves the presidency--not your derision. Geez.

Rent Party said...

Here's the news of the stay:

-=Topper=- said...

And oh yeah, Field, that was tough what you said about McCain's arms. Don't you know he's a HERO!!! and a MAVERICK!!! who was TORTURED!!! in VIETNAM?!!! Based on that alone, he deserves the presidency--not your derision. Geez.

I am hoping that is sarcasm. Anyway, enough on that.

We have been having quite the debate at truthseekerscast.ning.com concerning white privilege. And I find it concerning that white people question the existence of white privilege. One actually brings into the conversation black irresponsibility. Can you believe that?

Some whites are so unbelievable when it comes to how much responsibility in this world they want.

And not to step on toes but it seems that most of those that don't want the responsibility are conservatives.

Kellybelle said...

I will be so glad when it is revealed that we have executed an innocent man. I know we have. This might make the families that are so sure the right man is in jail, more concerned with justice rather than vengeance.

That eye-for-an-eye justice doesn't even help with healing the pain of having a loved one murdered. Many Oklahoma City families said Timothy McVeigh's death didn't end their pain, it just made them realize that forgiveness was the only way to be free.

gsutiger2 said...

This is the ONLY reson I do not believe in the death penalty. Your just never sure of guilt and or innocense in all cases. I would hate to know I put an innocent person on death row.

vanishing point said...

It's supposed to guilty beyond reasonable doubt. There's plenty here, not just the recanting, but the weapon as well.
I don't believe in the death penalty, not just for cases like this, but for all. There has to be some better way to solve issues of crime and violence in society. Building more prisons, and killing people doesn't sound like something I am in favor of striving for, it solves nothing.

Carol (Aquariusmoon) Duhart said...

This is one of the many reasons why I now oppose the death penalty. There is no way to correct mistakes or compensate for malicious practices once a person is dead. With life without parole, at least if new evidence comes up to exonerate a person, or the conviction is doubtful, you can let that person go and look for the real killer.

Anonymous said...

Since the US Supreme Court declared a stay, there might be enough meat on the bones to attract their attention.
Yes, they're racist. But not all of them, and they're not stupid either. Old, graying, politicized, corrupt, sure. But they're not stupid. Sometimes a spade is a spade and even they realize that.

Anonymous said...


Don't play that whole "I'm from Texas" nonsense. I'm from Oklahoma and think there are some people who need killin' too. However, I think, instead of allowing my bloodlust to control me--after all, we're not Klingons. If the evidence is faulty and shady and if witnesses freakin' RECANT--in other words, "beyond reasonable doubt" doesn't apply here--then we ought not be so quick to kill.

Mac Daddy Tribute Blog said...

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made it plain on the death penalty, saying it was a tool of the State to punish people of color and the poor:

"Most of the world has abolished the immoral and barbaric practice of the death penalty. Yet the United States continues to condemn men and women to death. Nearly all of the people this country executes are poor and/or people of color, and many of them suffer from mental retardation or mental illness...The death penalty is a microcosm of the problems we have with violence in general."

Anonymous said...

Study after study shows how racism plays a huge part in how the the death penalty is administered. There's also the issue of money, the more you have the less likely the state will seek to kill you. This is obvious and not worth time debating. So cutting through all the BS, it comes down to if you are cool with a rigged system killing people. Most A-merry-cans are, which speaks to our depravity.

OT...Obama is up 52/43 in the latest ABC/WaPo. I don't usually cite tracking polls, but this is HUGE. Neither Gore nor Kerry ever had a lead this big this deep into the election. The economy is absolutely DESTROYING MCBush, as it should be!

Anonymous said...

The Hurricane (the movie) comes to mind.

Eddie G. Griffin said...

He lives to fight another day. Maybe next time we'll outright win.

gsutiger2 said...

Have you seen this little bit of breaking campaign news? Hmmm . . .


gsutiger2 said...

Well there goes my Presidential Debate Party :-(.

Oh well . . . I'm just another American losing $$$ on the rethugs clock (I wonder if they will bail me out of the $$ I will lose on my party).

Eddie G. Griffin said...

gsutiger2, don't tell me you charged admission.

gsutiger2 said...

LOL - No I didn't. HOWEVER You got to put in for enjoyin.

Pot luck, bought stuff, etc . . .

Christopher said...

Hey Field,

Did you see this?

The Old Coot has redeployed himself out of his own campaign and debate.

Now that he's down by 9 points, McCain has turned into a real pussy.

gsutiger2 said...

Well while perusing the conservative blogs (& fox news) – The McCain supporters have stated GOOD FOR MCCAIN THAT HE IS TRULY PUTTING COUNTRY FIRST. THAT IS A TRUE AMERICAN HERO.

Umm . . . Taking time off to clean up the mess YOU helped make? Hmmm . . .

A2daK said...


Not so fast. Obama isn't letting him get off that easily. The debate is still on.

"Cancel the debates for the sake of the country"? Gimme a break. Dude is sinking fast and is trying to stop further damage

Christopher said...


You are 100% correct.

Per ABC News: "The debate is on!"

I say let Barack show up alone and take questions from the mods and the Old Coot can hide under McCandy's shirt.

Anonymous said...

apparently obama's um umm ummmmm ass kicking by Hillary has been forgotten. um ummmmmm um ummmm um ummmmmmmmmmmmu ummmmmm um.....racist! is all obie has. ummm uummm. can i have a boy in the back of a limo and a pillow please.

gsutiger2 said...

Whew great!

*bringing the wine and cheese back into the house*

You see how the Rethugs just have me on edge!

Don said...

You really have got to ask yourself; what kind of country or state puts a human being to death when there is doubt about his guilt?

You know, I grew up thinking that if a person had been convicted of a crime, they are guilty.

Now that I'm older and somewhat wise and informed, I see my previous line of thought was the furthest thing from The Truth. I believe in The Death Penalty, I have to admit, but like you I don't agree with executing a man when the evidence isn't as concrete as it should be.

I almost have to ask if they are killing the man based on his skin color alone? But that would be a dumb question.

Francis Holland said...

When the Republicans came into control of the US Congress in 1992 (or was it 1994), one of the main priorities in their "Contract on America" was speedy executions of those on death row. The Republicans (and many Democrats) love to see people executed and it frustrates them to no end to see the courts considering the matter of their guilt or innocence instead of just putting a Black mask over their heads and lighting them up in the electric chair.

And Troy Davis is caught up in exactly that. One of the ways the Republicans conjured up to speed up the death penalty is to take from courts the jurisdiction to hear new evidence in cases that have already been heard by a judge and jury.

So, if after you are convicted someone else confesses to the crime and that someone also gives a sperm sample that matches the sperm found in the woman who was raped and murdered, and also presents the never-identified murder weapon to the court as proof of his guilt and your innocence?

F-YOU! You go to the electric chair anyway, because you've already had one bite at the apple, and the Republicans say you shouldn't get another chance. The important thing is not to execute someone who is guilty or to avoid executing someone who is innocent, but rather to execute someone (ANYONE, regardless of guilt or innocence!) before Republican punitive patience runs out.

Anonymous said...

This is very reason why do not like the use of the death penalty. Human beings never realize that they make mistakes. It's an imperfect practice. I don't understand who a state can tell an individual not to kill anyone, but it's fine for the state to do it.

Anonymous said...

On principle, I think there are some people who just deserve to die. Timothy McVeigh would be a good example. But the problem is that for all their talk about how inept the government is, Republicans never seem to grasp that the government can get it wrong sometimes and condemn an innocent person to death. The system just doesn't work. There are too many inept lawyers representing these defendants. Sometimes they get good court-appointed lawyers or public defenders, but they can't do a decent job because they are suffering under staggering case loads and don't have the resources of the state to properly defend their clients. And we all know that blacks and the poor are far more likely to be condemned to death. It just doesn't work.

ac said...

My reasons for opposing the death penalty include all of what has been addressed above about the racial inequalities and the possibility of innocent people losing their lives and stretches to the financial as well. Where I diverge from most is at the cost. Do you know its nearly a million dollars, sometimes more, to house, feed, provide counsel, appellate counsel and court costs for each death row inmate? It is infinitely cheaper to house these individuals for rest of their lives without parole than it is to sentence them to death. Yes I agree that there may be some who deserve to die but frankly - I'm all for making it voluntary. Let them volunteer, and undergo a mental exam - if they are in their right mind and choose to die rather than spend life in prison then - ok.

Restructure the sentencing guidelines and stop letting the DEA and politicians use our criminal justice system to score cheap points. Let's recognize drug addiction as a medical issue and stop criminalizing drug use. Let's reexamine the classification of drugs, pot is not on the same level as heroin, meth and crack for crying out loud, and lets move the intent to deal/sell level to realistic levels rather than gotcha levels. All of which might serve to clear out some of our prisons, leaving room for those who commit violent crimes against people.

Anonymous said...

I believe in the death penalty. For the scum who killed the college kids in Newark and anyone with a smoking gun in hand, caught on camera and killing an innocent person.. No eyewitnesses and no DNA = no death penalty, just life in prison. Some things need to die. Like the bank robber in Philly. One shot in the head and be done with it. OR you could turn the shyte over to the family.

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