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Troy Davis to be Executed


The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied clemency to Troy Davis, making his execution inevitable. Davis is not unquestionably innocent, and not quite a case like Cameron Todd Willingham where it is impossible to prove innocence to absolute certainty but we know that the state has no evidence that a crime was committed, let alone that Willingham committed it. But it is still utterly outrageous that he will be executed based on the evidence that the state of Georgia has presented. There is no physical evidence against Davis. The case relies entirely on eyewitness testimony, a highly unreliable form of evidence that is far more likely than any other source of evidence to lead to wrongful convictions. Moreover, 7 of the 9 eyewitnesses against him have recanted their testimony and claimed that their identifications were produced under the kind of high-pressure conditions that are especially likely to lead to erroneous identifications.

We cannot be completely certain that Troy Davis is innocent, but we can be certain that if states can execute people based solely on inherently unreliable evidence innocent people will be executed. The state of Georgia is about to be responsible for an outrageous violation of human rights.

UPDATE: I have a more extensive analysis here.   R.I.P.

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  • But my winkie will feel ever so much bigger and less frightened!

    (which is a flippant reaction because the only other reactions that make sense at this point in the process are impotent fury or declaring open season on crooked cops, prosecutors, and judges. Maybe Davis’ family can sue the state. :/ )

    • Socraticsilence

      Honestly the former is starting to seem more and more fair- not in terms of vigilante justice but the immunity currently held by authorities for past actions essentially removes any real check on their incompetence/malevolence– not that its going to change any time soon– see the SC ruling on the Harry Connick Sr thing.

  • What amazes me about capital punishment supporters is that they are exactly the sort of people who you would expect would object to having the the US lumped in with places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, or North Korea.

    • NonyNony

      Feh. If you ask them about the human rights policies of these nations in isolation – without telling them WHERE the policies were formed – you’ll find more agreement than disgust.

      Their disgust at the policies of Iran, SA, China and North Korea comes mostly from reflexive xenophobia or reflexive anti-communism or reflexive anti-Islam beliefs. It doesn’t come from the individual policies so much as who is making the policies.

      • Holden Pattern

        Feh. If you ask them about the human rights policies of these nations in isolation – without telling them WHERE the policies were formed – you’ll find more agreement than disgust.

        This. If one digs around a bit, one can also find the “Mooslums are teh EEEVIILL” fundie lunatics making common cause with the evil Mohammedan in blocking any attempt in international law to protect women, children or homosexuals. Authoritarian views on how to treat the morally suspect “other” pretty much all look the same.

  • John F

    The amazing thing is that he did get a second bite at the apple, a post trial evidentiary hearing (most don’t get that)- and his lawyers screwed that up big time.

    • Barry Freed

      I hadn’t known that. Even more depressing.

  • c u n d gulag

    Well, they couldn’t get to Angela back in the day, so I guess another Davis will have to pay.

    And the execution will, I’m sure, be marked by “HUZZAH’S!”, and erect penises and nipples from the usual “I’m Pro-Life” supporters.

    Also, too – this is good for John McCain!
    Wait, no… scratch that…
    This is good for Governor Perry!!!

  • eb

    You say “an outrageous violation of human rights”, I say “a premeditated act of murder”.

    Which is not to deny that it’s also the former, just to note that when we’re talking about intentionally converting a living, breathing human being into a pile of rotting flesh – and not even in self-defense – it’s a bit more significant than your average violation of human rights.

  • Two executions this week.

    So when do we get to call America a serial killer? Will there be breathless MNBC coverage? Will Nancy Grace DEMAND…

    Wait. Neither of these guys is a young blonde chick. sorry.

  • One of the most disturbing things was the reaction of the victim’s family. Although they, to the best of my knowledge, have absolutely no direct personal knowledge of the killing they are good with the execution even with all the questions.

    Essentially they want someone executed. It apparently doesn’t matter whether or not the person who is executed is the killer.

    Which when you think about it, is the attitude of most of the courts and other agencies of government.

    • Leeds man

      It apparently doesn’t matter whether or not the person who is executed is the killer.

      I think this is a very common trait in our species. I’ve heard otherwise intelligent people babble about the need for closure (implicitly more important than guilt, apparently). It’s just a sacrificial blood ritual, and it would be nice if we could admit that.

      • MPAVictoria

        While I am appalled as anyone I think that you are being a bit harsh on the family. They are obviously irrational with grief. It is the job of the justice system to prevent this kind of injustice and you cannot expect that kind of impartiality from the victim’s family.

        • Leeds man

          I think that you are being a bit harsh on the family

          I certainly don’t blame the family. I blame the many other people who rationalize executions by claiming the need for closure for the family. The folk I’ve argued with were not victims’ family.

          • MPAVictoria

            Sorry I meant to direct that comment more to lawguy than yourself.

            • I actually understand the desire to have someone die who killed a loved one. What I don’t understand is the desire to have someone who apparently didn’t kill the loved one die.

              • MPAVictoria

                They probably truly believe that he did it. Remember his innocence hasn’t been proved, his guilt has been put in serious doubt. Two very different things.

        • Leeds man

          I was thinking in particular about an argument I had with someone about this classic Volokh

        • The killing took place in 1989. Over 20 years ago.

      • Anderson

        Well, sure. Nietzsche: I must repay evil for evil done to me … but why necessarily to the one who did me the evil?

    • DrDick

      In Georgia, and elsewhere in the South and much of the West, this is pretty normal. If that person tends to be of a dusky hue, double plus extra good.

  • Leeds man

    The state of Georgia is about to be responsible for an outrageous violation of human rights.

    My only quibble with this sentence is that it might be read as though the violation were exceptional, rather than (probably) fairly routine.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah thats what I was thinking – Georgia murders black man, film at eleven :(

  • david mizner

    Well we can be sure that as long as there’s the death penalty, the state will kill innocent people.

    • Holden Pattern

      It is better that a hundred innocent people die than one guilty man go free.*

      * This aphorism not applicable to corporate executives or war criminals of the correct nationality.

      • MPAVictoria

        How about “It is better that a 100 innocent people die than one guilty man go free to jail for the rest of his life.”

        /Stole that from someone.

        • Holden Pattern

          Fixed That For Me. Which you did, thx.

  • Sucks,

    I’ve watched this case and it seems flimsy to say the least. Why the Governor hasn’t commuted the sentence based on the evidence that the evidence sucked.

    How and judge prosecutor could sleep arguing for this to continue?

    What Shakespear said…..

    Except for my lawyer…. I might need him…. The rest of you to the guillotine with you… Just kidding..

    I do support the death penalty on some cases. This seems to be one where I won’t.

    • Laughing Loafer

      Apparently Georgia’s governor doesn’t have the right to stay or commute execution orders. So say the news outlets, anyway.

  • Lee

    The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles consists are a bunch of bastards.

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  • Some questions:

    In a shooting what physical evidence were you hoping for? Does this mean that if I get rid of the gun and wash my hands I can get away with murder even if I shoot a fellow in front of a whole parking lot full of witnesses?

    34 witnesses were called for the prosecution. 7 changed their testimony and the defense refused to allow a cross examination of the two whose recantations really meant something. Why?

    Is the following statement untrue?

    Among the witnesses who did not recant a word of their testimony against Davis were three members of the Air Force, who saw the shooting from their van in the Burger King drive-in lane. The airman who saw events clearly enough to positively identify Davis as the shooter explained on cross-examination, “You don’t forget someone that stands over and shoots someone.”

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