Capital Punishment, and the element of doubt.

Occasionally I put down my thoughts on another website. Today I did this on the Death penalty and the case of Troy Davis.

On September 21 at around 1108 EDT Troy Davis was put to death by the State of Georgia, after spending 20 years on Death row. While this would just be a case of “Justice is done” it has instead become one of the grossest miscarriages of justice in modern times.

On the evening of August 18 1989, Davis was at a party with some friends, after setting off there was an altercation with the occupants in another car which resulted in one being shot in the face, allegedly by Davis himself. After meeting a friend outside Burger King the friend, Sylvester “Redd” Coles then proceeded to argue with a homeless man over a can of beer. At this time an off duty policeman named Mark McPhail was shot and killed as he tried to intervene. A day later Coles went to a police station and said that Davis had commited the crime. On August 23rd Davis surrendered to the police after negotiating his arrest after death threats were made against him by local drug dealers, since the police investigation was interrupting business.

During the trial the prosecution alleged that Davis shot Michael Cooper met up with Coles , pistol-whipped the homeless man in the parking lot and then killed Mark MacPhail. Coles admitted arguing with Young, but stated that Davis had hit him with a pistol. During cross-examination, Coles admitted that he also had a .38 pistol, but stated that he had given it to another man earlier that night, more importantly no murder weapon was recovered, the one piece of evidence that would have secured a conviction of either Davis or Coles was found. Instead prosecutors used the casings and matched them to the earlier shooting after the party. The Jury took two hours to find Davies guilty and a further 7 to recommend the death penalty.

Davis unsuccessfully appealed numerous times even citing Haebus Corpus issues with the police search of his mothers home, and after all attempts the sentence was confirmed. From around 1996 things seemed to look up for Davis, seven of the nine main witnesses changed their testimony, one going as far as to suggest blackmail from the police as she was on parole for shoplifting. Three witnesses signed affadavits saying Coles had admitted the murder to them. The judge in the 2004 appeal remarked that “submitted affidavits are insufficient to raise doubts as to the constitutionality of the result at trial, there is no danger of a miscarriage of justice in declining to consider the claim.”

Davis excecution date was delayed at the last minute 3 times before the final date of September 21 was set. Even then at the last second the Supreme court stepped in to evaluate the case. And despite the lack of a weapon, allegation of illegal tactics by the police, the changing in testimony of practically all the witnesses and the confession of another to the crime the supreme court denied this final appeal.

At around 10 to 10 Davis was lead into the excecution, 2 IV’s were placed in his arm and after final remarks in which he again protested his innocence he was given a lethal cocktail that ended his life at 1108 EDT.

It is my opinion that the Death penalty is an evil we can do without, this need for “vengence not justice” is the final hang on to our ancestors need for an eye for an eye and is just wrong by any measure. The Death penalty is a final act, evidence later may find the accused innocent, but by then it is too late, you can’t release a dead man back into society. History is filled with examples of this state sponsored murder. Derek Bentley was excecuted in the UK on January 23 1953 he was 19, and medically recorded as being “borderline feeble minded.” He was excecuted for the murder of policeman Sidney Miles after a “stand off” on a roof following a burglary. In the altercation another policeman Detective Frederik Fairfax was shot, Bentley didn’t fire a shot and was already under arrest at the time of the killings. However under “joint enterprise” it was bentley not the youth who fired the shots who was excecuted, only finally recieving a full pardon in 1998.

While it is unlikely the Death penalty will ever be repealed fully in the US if it must remain on the books then if there is even a morsel of doubt to innocence then it shouldn’t be used at all.

The US legal system failed Davis in the most horrific way, the rescheduling and last minute intervention by the Supreme court must count as cruel and unusual punishment and must have been mental torture to Davis and his family. And the fact the highest court in the land, where allegedly the smartest legal minds in the country sit, think it is ok to excecute an allegedly innocent man should sit uneasily in the minds of Americans.

For a country that aims to export its rights and ideas of justice to the rest of the world, it may be best to get your own house in order.

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