Elegy for Troy Davis

There are days when I’m proud to be an American and then there are days like yesterday. I dislike the death penalty because of its finality. Once the switch is flicked, the poison injected or the trap door on the gallows sprung, it’s over, a life is taken and society has its vengeance, which far too many confuse with justice.

The Troy Davis case was very troublesome because of the recantation of 7 of 9 eyewitnesses and the lack of physical evidence. It’s also troublesome because it shows how hard it is to overturn a death sentence. I recall studying this issue in law school and being horrified at the standard of proof required to admit new evidence in any case. It *should* be hard to overturn a conviction BUT when someone’s life is at stake, the state should proceed with caution. They don’t because that would look soft even if it involved commuting a death sentence to life. That’s the minimum that should have happened in the Davis case.

I live in the death penalty belt.But Louisiana didn’t have an excecution between 2002 and 2010. There seems to have been a covert moratorium under Governors Foster and Blanco; possibly because of the influence of the Catholic Church. Hey, even they get some things right. There has been only 1 execution under Jindal but his raging ambition assures that there will be more. How could he face his Presidential candidate, Rick (Hang ’em High) Perry otherwise?

The oddest thing about the capital punishment debate is that conservatives regard the criminal justice system and the military as the only parts of guvmint that ever work. I don’t get it: like every other human institution they’re flawed and fallible. The same people that vilify the Fed and the “welfare state,” believe that the police only arrest the guilty and that only the wicked are punished. If that were true, Dick Cheney wouldn’t still be on the loose.

Finally, I know this isn’t a proper elegy: I write prose, not poetry. But the word fits my mood today. At the very least an irreversible mistake has been made and, at the worst, an innocent man was killed by the state of Georgia. If the state is going to kill someone, it should be bloody well sure they’re guilty.

10 thoughts on “Elegy for Troy Davis

  1. virgotex says:

    And if Perry is going to run on his killing record, then I think it’s perfectly acceptable for Dems to make his middle name Willingham between here and 2012. I don’t think they will though.

  2. adrastos says:

    I wish they would but agree with your pessimism.

  3. @ Virgotex: Truth & truth.
    As far as the death penalty itself is concerned, I believe the state does have the right and responsibility to take lives to protect the greater public. But that doesn’t mean I trust any justice system, especially in the South, to do things right out of altruism, or even in honest understanding of the concept of justice.
    There are bloodthirsty hypocrites on the right who just like to see blood for blood, but there are many of us closer to the center who demand a more just process and a higher standard of evidence. Davis, Willingham, and Thompson (from NOLA) are prime examples of the system failing miserably. If you want to have a go at the politics of the death penalty in the United States in the current fear-infected climate, you have to focus on those aspects.

  4. MichaelF says:

    Even if they did I don’t think it would change much: it’s sadly clear that actual guilt, innocence, or reasonable doubt doesn’t much matter to a fair chunk of the kill ’em crowd.
    I remember when the big pro-death penalty people insisted it was strictly for the worst of the worst, or maybe the odd “volunteer” (and I think Bordelon was one of those). But from the beginning, post-Furman, (John Spenkelink, if I remember) it’s been merely the ugliest of lotteries. Last night was another example.
    Pat Sonnier, known to most Louisianians as Elmo Patrick Sonnier, was convicted and executed (in 1983) for killing two kids who went to my high school. His brother, whom it’s generally accepted was the actual murderer, is serving a life sentence at Angola. Does anyone really think Eddie Sonnier “got away with it?”

  5. MapleStreet says:

    How many folks has the Innocence Project cleared?
    And RE: Perry running on the Texas Justice, remember Bush II’s certainty that Texas has never executed an innocent person? And the problems with Texas justice that have come to light since then? (such as cleared by DNA but executed. And Executed but never allowed access to his embassy?)

  6. How many folks has the Innocence Project cleared?
    Too many for any rationally thinking adult to be truly comfortable with the system. But there is a difference between discomfort and the willingness to discontinue. Many in the blood-for-blood crowd are reacting out of a blind fear that too many people get away with horrible crimes. That’s a narrative steeped in cultural panic. The death penalty is more their “bloody flag” than their goal, that’s why they cheer it.
    But I’d wager that many Americans in the 65%+ that “support” the death penalty also have very deep concerns about the process. In this political culture, the only electoral choices they are offered are “no death penalty” and “death penalty.” At some point, I have to think that limited choice contributes to keeping the system the way it is.

  7. Patricia says:

    The slave sales of old have morphed into the present United States Criminal Justice System.
    The chains & shackles still exist but the business is now transacted using the guise of criminal court.
    It’s warm bodies for sale to the tune of apx. 40,000 per year per prisoner.
    Humans are designated as “governmental property & become commodities sold by law enforcement agencies & shipped around the country like GROCERY STORE MEAT.
    UNITED STATES LEADS the world with 2.3 million people INCARCERATED — a 500% increase over the past thirty years.
    If incarceration was a deterrent to crime then the crime rate would DROP & SO WOULD THE NUMBER of PRISONERS. N’cest pas?

  8. MapleStreet says:

    MichaelF and Cousin Pat,
    As an anecdote, the local TV has it set up on their web page to comment on the stories.
    Far too often (almost any story about a crime) there is a group that makes comments that we should just throw them in prison / execute / shoot ’em / etc. to save the cost of a trial. Of course, these folk also tend to be the “I love America” / I love the constitution / The Rights of being America crowd – as long as we on’t have to follow the most basic parts of it like due process or pay taxes to support the govt). It would be bad enough if I were talking only stories where someone was seriously harmed, but I’m willing to bet if there were a story on a ticket for jaywalking, these same folk would come out in force.

  9. Jb says:

    Those who support the death penalty are unable to imagine themselves as the accused. Innocent but accused, innocent but convicted. I’ll bet all the innocent ones who have been already put to death had trouble imagining that as well.
    Surely it can’t happen here.

  10. MichaelF says:

    MapleStreet–
    Those same types of people make much same comments on the local rag’s website here in Red Stick. They usually add a bit of gratuitous librul bashing (“so, I guess they’re going to blame society…”), and never see the irony — their call for the lynch mob is every bit as outside the law as the crime committed, and the alleged criminal(s).

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