Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Troy Davis granted stay of execution

I expected to come home after the Question One rally this evening and write about the execution of Troy Davis. Instead, I have the great good fortune to announce that Troy was granted a stay of execution by the U.S. Supreme Court just two hours before his scheduled death at 7 pm. His stay of execution will last at least one week while the Supreme Court reviews the facts of his case.

Troy was convicted for the 1989 murder of Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhai. Since his 1991 trial, seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified against him have recanted, siting fear of the real perpetrator and police pressure. Eyewitness testimony was the only evidence against Troy; there was no physical evidence and the murder weapon was never found. You can read more about Troy Davis at Amnesty International.

Law and Order is on television as I write this and I'm remembering an episode where it becomes clear that a man serving time for murder is innocent. Another man is charged. But the district attorney who convicted the first man refuses to release him. His argument to the court is that even though the man may be innocent, justice has still been served because due process was followed and twelve men and women had found him guilty. Justice, the attorney argued, is a higher value than the truth.

This is the state of affairs we've come to in 2008. I was a kid when I first read John Adam's statement, 'Better a guilty man go free than one innocent man be sent to prison.' I doubt most people would agree with that statement now, crediting it to the Libertarian Party or some survivalist group I keep waiting for the pendulum to swing the other way, for us to realize that criminalizing everything only makes for more criminals.

And then there are the people that just didn't do it, whatever it may be.

Thanks to the very hard work of Mass Citizens Against the Death Penalty and its allies, Massachusetts remains one of 36 states without a death penalty, so someone like Troy Davis won't be put to death here. But that doesn't mean that all innocent people are exonerated. I know that much firsthand.

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