Like 9/11, perhaps the date 9/22 will also be emblazoned upon people’s minds, both in the U.S. and the world over, as the date when a new spark was lit to a blazing wildfire that may soon follow: a massive, and unrelentingly intense, probe of the forces — above-board and perhaps also in the shadows — that actually drove Troy Davis to his death.
And into the entire system of American (and other nations’) jurisprudence, particularly in regard to how various forces may combine to codify, uphold, and act on, decisions whose result may be, in even one case, the taking of an innocent person’s freedom — and life.
Thus, some of my observations herewith. Please note that these observations are purely my expressions of my opinion, and if there are any factual errors, they are unintentional.
From my reading of the case, I strongly believed, that at the very least, Troy Davis deserved clemency or, at a minimum, a reprieve and an opportunity for a FAIR hearing or re-trial in which to make his case. In my view, there was just too much evidence in his favor to NOT grant him that critically important opportunity to defend his right to live.
Yet, in the final analysis, it would appear that the State denied him that request.
Yes, according to reports. he had been granted some rehearings over the past years. But as his attorneys reportedly pointed out, new evidence continued, over the years, to surface, that he was unjustly convicted — evidence of which the relevant authorities were either unaware or to which they had not yet given requisite attention.
So if Troy Davis did have those previous retrials and hearings, what — if anything — went wrong? Was he, or were his lawyers, denied the right to bring certain evidence into those hearings? Did the courts essentially rule that “procedure” must take precedence over “fact”? Did some vital evidence come to light only after those hearings were history?
Were his lawyers, in essence, muzzled by restrictions placed upon them by the courts?
Or, did his lawyers simply not fight well enough?
Or was the actual evidence, ALL of it, truly overwhelmingly persuasive that Troy Davis was the killer as charged?
Perhaps these, and other such issues, now merit a laserbeam of scrutiny — particularly if it turns out that Troy Davis was right and that he was unjustly incarcerated — and executed — on fatally flawed grounds. In which case, the State of Georgia — whether through proper (though incorrect) decisionmaking or through procedures and motivations that should themselves be placed on trial — has now murdered an innocent man.
I too signed online petitions urging the Georgia authorities to block this execution, to grant clemency, or to at least grant Troy Davis additional time and opportunity to have a new and FAIR trial in which to present his case.
It seemed to me that even if he were guilty, he should have had the right to present — in a FAIR setting — important new exculpatory evidence — evidence of a nature that at the least might cast sufficient “reasonable doubt” as to whether the case against him was strong enough to merit his demise.
With most of the original witnesses, who had initially testified against him, now recanting part or all of their previous testimony, and with there also being an allegation by a witness that another person had personally confessed to the crime, and with the man’s life on the line, how, I wondered, could a fair and objective judiciary NOT see fit to grant him a full and fair opportunity to present this new evidence?
How, at the least, could the authorities NOT choose to at least grant the man this one, last, wish?
Interestingly, as some petitions urged us to fax our requests to Larry Chisolm, the Chatham, GA, District Attorney, I also made multiple efforts at doing so on the day prior to the execution-date — with the result being that apparently NEITHER of D.A. Chisolm’s official FAX numbers (which I’d gleaned from petitions and also from his office’s pages on the net) were working, and that my multiple efforts at faxing him therefore FAILED.
And I thought to myself: Was this fax-nonfunctionality an error? Did he, or his office, decide that they just couldn’t handle what may have been an onslaught of pro-Troy-Davis fax-after-fax coming in, and so they turned off the fax-answering systems? Did the D.A. decide that since he — as he publicly reported — was “powerless” to act in defiance of the Superior Court’s ruling on the execution, that receiving any further fax-requests on the matter would be useless, and so he thus ordered that his office’s fax-reception be deactivated?
Or, I wondered, was this fax-reception nonfunctionality planned because “the die had already been cast”, and that it had “already been made clear” — or, in some way, “ordered from above” — that NO plea for clemency or delay was to be considered, and that Troy Davis — despite any relevant evidence of his possible innocence — MUST die?
I also find it more than merely interesting that the U.S. Supreme Court, when it ordered, a few years ago, that a lower court must grant Troy Davis an “evidentiary hearing”, the U.S. Supreme Court — according to news accounts — “raised the bar” in what strikes me as a very peculiar, unfair, chilling, and perhaps unConstitutional, way:
They ordered that the hearing be restricted to presenting evidence proving (if such were the case) that Troy Davis was INNOCENT — which is a tremendously different standard than the one that has for centuries been the underpinning (when used) of American jurisprudence: that of raising “REASONABLE DOUBT” that the defendant is “GUILTY AS CHARGED”.
And so came 9/22, and the authorities offered him a “last meal” — why not instead offer him a last, and full, shot at justice?
How many times have we seen, in TV courtroom dramas — or in actual courtroom events — or been otherwise made aware of in the American legal system — that a judge, or jury, will be given the choice of declaring either of ONLY TWO alternative judgments: “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”?
Never is a defendant, who is exonerated of the charged offense, officially declared “Innocent”. Maybe that itself is a fundamental flaw of the system — but nevertheless, it is a fact.
So how is it, I wonder, that in Troy Davis’ case, the U.S. Supreme Court, in that 2007 instance, had ruled that Mr. Davis must provide convincing evidence of his INNOCENCE, rather than be required only to provide REASONABLE DOUBT as to his alleged GUILT?
As to his request, in the past few days, to be given a polygraph test — a request that the prison authorities reportedly rejected:
On the one hand, it is my understanding that polygraph test-results are usually inadmissible as evidence in a courtroom-trial. But what would have been the problem for officials to have granted Troy Davis this last simple request? Would it, in their view, have “opened the doors” to a “flood” of prisoners, across the state and nation, demanding that they (the prisoners) too be granted a polygraph-test, especially if they themselves might be headed for “Death Row”? So was it a question of “precedent”?
And, for that matter, why not grant such a precedent?
Maybe this is an issue too that should now become part of the public debate.
Or might it be that the authorities, in Troy Davis’ case, did not want to “open a Pandora’s Box” by permitting a polygraph-test that might possibly provide new evidence — for all the world to see — that, despite the state’s pronouncements to the contrary, Troy Davis was NOT GUILTY OF THE CRIME?
And how many other “Troy Davises” are similarly convicted, locked up, and serving time or headed for execution — or have already been executed –, by judicial/penal systems that seem unethically stacked against them, despite legitimate and substantial evidence that these persons too are, perhaps, NOT GUILTY OF THE CRIME?
But where are the petitions, the mass media coverage, the national or global concern, over THEIR fate? And where, in all those cases, is the widespread cry for a weeding-out of the flaws, unethical practices, erroneous decisionmaking, and, as some might allege, less-than-wholesome motivational factors, in the systems that have possibly driven those victims to their unjust fates?
But there are also people who are swept up by a “justice system” and, for whatever the reasons, locked away, even though they are innocent of the alleged crimes for which they have been convicted. What about THESE people?
Or, as would APPEAR (at least from my reading of the questions raised) to be the case in the matter of the conviction and execution of Troy Davis, have we now, publicly, and essentially worldwide, witnessed an instance in which the state — having long ago “made up its mind” in the matter, and in which the state also long ago decided to unbendingly adhere to its own initial interpretation of its own (and possibly flawed) rules, and in which the state, in this long and loudly clanking ghostly chain of actions that it’s hammered out and dragged behind it over these years, link-by-link, felt that it had no choice but to continue justifying every previous FLAWED link that it had locked into place at each step in this saga — decided that EVEN IF NOT GUILTY OF THE CHARGED CRIME, TROY DAVIS MUST DIE?
Did the state of Georgia make the right decision? Was Troy Davis really guilty as charged? Or did the state of Georgia, and all those authorities involved in sending this man to his death, do so along the lines of the scenario suggested above?
Guilty or innocent, his reported last words included a request that the search for the truth of his case continue to be vigorously pursued. Sounds like a good idea to me.
ADDENDUM: I wonder how quickly this case, and key elements involved in it, will be legitimately and thoroughly investigated in regard to how this entire situation came about.
I also wonder how quickly — and how accurately — the tale will be converted into a made-for-TV movie or a Hollywood major motion picture — and what messages that production will (or will not) convey.
QUESTION: Might this Troy Davis case become the spark of a wildfire of revelations and reforms to come?
(NOTE: Comments, if they are reasonable and respectful, and not slanderous, libelous, or obscene, are welcome. There should be a link, somewhere below this post, for submitting them. Thanks.)
(Copyright Protonius at protonius.wordpress.com 2011.)