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Death Penalty & Justice…

A most extraordinary thing happened on the way to the Forum…ahhh, the Court that is, the US Supreme Court.  For the first time in more than 50 years (last summer), the Court granted a writ of habeas corpus to an inmate on death row to enable his return to a Georgia court for re-hearing.  He is scheduled before that court today, Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010.

DNA Exonerations...

DNA Exonerations...

Troy Anthony Davis, was convicted of killing a cop in 1989 in Savannah, Georgia.  While sitting on death row for the past 20 years, 7 of the 9 eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony. 

Several members of the original jury have also delivered sworn statements indicating their decision was based on “incomplete and unreliable evidence.”  In addition to others, former FBI director William Sessions and conservative Congressman Bob Barr have called for a re-hearing on the case.

Now I’m no lawyer (far from it), but it seems to me that the Court may actually be concerned with the constitutionality of possibly executing an innocent person.   Heretofore, this Court, from Rehnquist on, has only ruled on the technical issues of such a case.  “Did he get his day in court?  Fine, hang ‘im!”  (Innocence, per se, has not been an appellate or constitutional defense to the Court.)



As I read the report on, it appears that Mssr. Davis will have to quite literally prove his innocence before the re-hearing court in Georgia.  As a former journalist and criminal defense investigator (in additon to 20 years in the federal Bureau of Prisons) it turns our system of justice precisely on its head.  However, since the trial court and jury found Davis “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” it’s likely that the Supreme Court will eventually ratify his sentence.

Perhaps the situation of growing numbers of men on death row being found, in fact, to be innocent, is having an effect on the Court.  In Illinois back in 1999 , this point is illustrated where 13 men on death row were found to be innocent.   Governor George Ryan (R-IL) commuted the remaining prisoners to life.  How can a system, he asked, be trusted at all under those facts?   Through the Innocence Project, 17 men having served a total of 187 years on death row in 11 different states were in fact found to be innocent through DNA evidence.

“Since 1973, 138 people in 26 states have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.”   With over 1,000 people having been executed since 1976, how many, we might ask, were in fact innocent?  We’ll never know.  The states and courts do not normally allow such evidence to go forward once the person is, in fact, already executed.  When George Bush was the governor of Texas, he presided over 152 executions.  He claimed that he knew they were all guilty.

                                           Dr. Publico

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3 Responses
  1. […] While, as has been previously stated, American Tribune believes that society has every right, as do individuals, to defend itself, the public also has […]

  2. Toby says:

    I can’t remember her name, but there was a woman in Texas, maybe the governor after GW? who wouldn’t even allow DNA evidence to be examined for people already convicted. She was the type that couldn’t ever admit mistakes were made. Typical republican. It was probably an election year too.

  3. […] Last year, American Tribune dot org published an article on the pending execution of Troy Anthony Davis (43). Davis had then been on death row for 19 years in the conviction of murdering Savannah police officer, Mark Allen MacPhail (27) in August of 1989. […]

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