Nel's New Day

September 26, 2011

Troy Davis Executed in Georgia

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 5:14 PM

What do Jimmy Carter, the Pope, former FBI head William Sessions, and almost one million other people have in common? They all asked that there be a stay of execution—or even clemency—for a man convicted 20 years ago of killing an off-duty policeman. At 10:54 pm, Wednesday September 21, 2011 the state of Georgia killed Troy Davis. He died at 11:08. Bob Barr, a four-term Republican representative from Georgia and death penalty supporter, wrote,”Imposing an irreversible sentence of death on the skimpiest of evidence will not serve the interest of justice.”

Before he was executed, Davis offered to submit to a lie detector test, but the request was denied by prison officials. Until his death, Davis maintained his innocence and urged people to dig deeper into the case to find the truth. He said, “For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls.” There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime, and the gun what killed the off-duty policeman was never found. Seven of the nine witnesses have since withdrawn or changed their testimony. Three jury members said that they would now support Davis’ innocence. Other people have claimed a man who was withDavisthat night has told people he actually shot the officer.

Critics claim that the case highlighted the face of a corrupted justice system in the deep South, with a black man wrongly and hastily convicted of killing a white police officer.

Four years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a federal judge in Savannah to convene a hearing to consider new evidence. In August 2010, however, a U.S. District Court in Georgia ruled that Davis had failed to prove his innocence and denied him a new trial. The top U.S. court then turned down a subsequent appeal.

A further travesty beyond the racism, classism, and miscarriage of justice that encouraged the state to murder Davis is that the act made a profit for the people who made the drug and the person who killed Davis. CorrectHealth is the for-profit “medical company” that, according to the ACLU, “oversees all executions in Georgia.” Even the company’s methods of obtaining the lethal drug is fraudulent.

The Southern Center for Human Rights has filed a complaint with the Georgia Composite Medical Board against Carlo Anthony Musso, MD, seeking the revocation or suspension of his medical license based upon his illegally importing and distributing the drug, sodium thiopental, to be used in carrying out the death penalty.  According to law, no person or organization may import or distribute a controlled substance without first registering with both the Georgia Board of Pharmacy and the federal Drug Enforcement Authority of the Attorney General.  Musso, owner and operator of the Georgia-based companies CorrectHealth and Rainbow Medical Associates, had no such licenses when he imported sodium thiopental into the United States and distributed it to the departments of corrections in Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Georgia Department of Corrections secured its supply from a London-based pharmaceutical supplier (Dream Pharma) that operated out of the back of a driving school. In March 2011, the Drug Enforcement Authority seized Georgia’s supply. Musso’s company also purchased and imported a supply of sodium thiopental from Dream Pharma.

The death penalty has been used to kill innocent people many times. Since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row because of evidence that they were wrongly convicted. Seventeen innocent people sentenced to death were exonerated and released based on DNA evidence, and another 112 were released based on other evidence. Illinois is one of 14 states that stopped these executions. Troy Davis is one of many people who were executed despite serious questions about their guilt. He has called on his supporters to continue working to end the death penalty.

In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Herrera v. Collins that an individual’s provable innocence isn’t, by constitutional standards, enough for courts to grant a new trial. Each state has the right to declare clemency or continue the execution if the person can be proved innocent. Only the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has the right in that state to stop an execution. In Davis’ case, they refused.

Two-thirds of all those sentenced to death in the United States since 1976 have been in five Southern states where “vigilante values” (frequently lynching) persist, according to the legal scholar Franklin Zimring. Many defendants in capital cases are too poor to afford legal counsel; and lawyers assigned to represent them are poorly equipped for the job. According to a major study from the Senate Judiciary Committee, “egregiously incompetent defense lawyering” accounted for about two-fifths of the errors in capital cases.  Most prosecutors in jurisdictions with the penalty are elected and control the decision to seek the punishment. Within Georgia, Texas, and other states, differing politics from county to county have led to huge disparities in the use of the death penalty even when the crime rates and demographics were similar.

“The death penalty [is] a flimsy edifice erected on the shaky premise that we always get it right, that human systems always work as designed, that witnesses make no mistakes, that science is never fallible, that cops never lie, that lawyers are never incompetent. You have to believe that. You have to make yourself believe it. Otherwise, how do you sleep at night? So, of course, a prosecutor speaks confidence. What else is he going to speak? Truth? Truth is too big, too dangerous, too damning. Truth asks a simple question: in what field of endeavor have we always gotten it right? And you know the answer to that.

“So truth is too pregnant for speaking. Better to avert your eyes and profess your confidence. But one day, too late for Troy Davis, too late for too many, truth will out. Godspeed that day the cards come tumbling down.” This is an excerpt from a column by Leonard Pitts about the tragic murder last week. It is one of two columns that the editor of the Athens Banner-Herald  (GA) chose not to print because he thought that Pitts was wrong.

All but a few developed nations have abolished the death penalty. Only 23 countries executed people last year. Despite the cheering of conservatives at the Republican presidential candidates for Texas Gov. Rick Perry allowing 234 (now 235) executions, each year fewer and fewer people in this country think that the death penalty helps bring justice and less crime. We can only hope that the nation will soon reach the tipping point to understand that execution is not in accordance with the Constitution and is in every way indefensible.

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