22 September 2011

Troy Davis, and what we can still do

The authorities have no excuse. After so many cases of convicted people being proven innocent after years or decades in prison, going through with an execution in a case so fraught with doubt is nothing short of a crime.

Nothing can be done for Troy Davis now, but we still have over 13 months to help the Troy Davises of the future.

Don't let politicians who are cavalier about executions get into office. Don't let their base, the kind of people who cheer death for the crime of not being able to afford health insurance, be the only ones who turn out and decide the election. Don't let someone who would put more Antonin Scalias on the Supreme Court get into the White House. And don't listen to the fools who would sit back and let that happen because the alternative is less than perfect.

Update/clarification: This posting is not meant to support the crusade against the death penalty, with which I do not agree. The outrage lies in convicting and punishing a man when reasonable doubt clearly existed, rather than in the specific penalty chosen (although obviously the more severe the punishment, the greater the injustice). There are plenty of criminals who fully deserve the death penalty. Those who are innocent and wrongly convicted, or convicted of some phony "crime" such as possession of marijuana for personal use, do not deserve any penalty at all -- not even one day in prison.


Blogger John Myste said...

Scalia is quite aged. If the democrats are in control when he passes, the whole balance of the Supreme Court could be shifted. That is huge.

Murder is OK if the state is doing it because they think someone might be deserving of it. At least this is the case with our current Supreme Court balance.

22 September, 2011 08:59  
Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

It is totally lost on Americans that the use of our death penalty ranks #5 in the world behind countries with similar ethics and ideals like: Communist China, Iran, North Korea, and Yemen. What a distinctive club we belong to.

22 September, 2011 13:26  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

It was murder and there was a little last minute torture thrown in for good measure.

"The Troy Davis case shows us a truth: We have wandered too far from our own best virtues.

If we are to err, let it be on the side of deliberation and mercy, rather than the unsettling finality we have seen pursued by the state of Georgia."

This is an excellent article by a former federal prosecutor and the author of the book "Jesus on Death Row."


22 September, 2011 13:41  
Blogger Nance said...

Yes! I'm refusing to let looming depression over the state of America drive me into inaction. The one thing we have left is the will to oppose wrong. And I will fight.

22 September, 2011 15:50  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

JM: I would love to see Obama or his Democratic successor choose Scalia's replacement. The far right would foam up as never before.

RtS: Frankly I think a lot of teabaggers would feel more comfortable with those societies, in many ways, than with a liberal pluralistic democracy.

LP: It's actually quite possible that Davis was guilty. But it wasn't proven by anything close to reasonable doubt.

Nance: Never let despair or defeatism drive you to inaction. That's just what the rightists want. People who fight for change may not win. People who don't fight for change will definitely not win.

23 September, 2011 07:45  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

This quote from Tolkien in your link in these comments gets it right, IMHO:

"Many who live deserve death. Some who die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too quick to deal out death in judgement, for even the very wise cannot see all ends."

There are evil people in this world, but I'm afraid I distrust my fellow human beings's judgement to know who the truly evil are and what to do with them.

I served on a jury in a rape trial years ago and learned some disturbing things about the criminal justice system.

24 September, 2011 09:48  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ted Bundy? Richard Ramirez? Anders Breivik? There are cases where death is unambiguously deserved.

24 September, 2011 11:28  
Blogger John Myste said...


Even if you think you came up with cases where Capital Punishment is appropriate, you cannot argue that we should not abolish it unless you also think there is an algorithm we could use to identify these cases.

Also, I don't agree with you that it is "unambiguously deserved," even in the cases you identified.

You mentioned people who think in ways that incomprehensible to the rest of us. If you knew them and they had told you their plans, you would have said "Oh my God! You are crazy!" ... and you would have believed it. Since you didn’t know them and they didn’t tell you, well, perhaps they are just evil (whatever that means).

Crazy, insanity, is a defect and no one chooses to be defective. You either are, or you are not. They are inflictions we don't want.

No one deserves to be crazy, and crazy people are victims of their insanity.

Vengeance if mine, saith the Infidel!

24 September, 2011 11:43  
Anonymous nonnie9999 said...

i was on a federal jury for 14 months. i thought i was pretty savvy in the ways of the world, but i was shocked by how inhumane people can be. that said, who deserves to die for a crime? should it depend on the person who committed the crime? the number of crimes committed? the heinous nature of the crime? the victim?

what really bothers me about the death penalty is how it's applied willy-nilly. there are no real guidelines, though some say there are certain criteria that must be fulfilled. everything is left up to interpretation, and there are many judges who justify the most ridiculous decisions.

one thing i really hate about our justice system is the victim impact statement. a courtroom should be a place for facts and logic, not emotion. if 2 people are killed in the same manner by people with the same criminal record, what should make the difference between one getting death and the other life or a lesser sentence? if one victim was more important (and in society's eyes, that might mean richer or more powerful) than the other, should the sentences be different? in an instance where the killing was random, and the particular person killed didn't figure into the equation (meaning that the person might have been a police officer, but his being one wasn't part of the motive and had nothing to do with the crime), what if one of the victims was loved by many, but the other was homeless with no family or friends? what if the victim was a real dirtbag, and people were happy s/he was dead? when catherine crier was on court tv, she had a show that asked for email questions. i sent that question to her--should the punishment for crimes involving beloved victims be more harsh than those perpetrated upon the less loved? she and her guest wound up spending the entire show on the question. that was back when victim impact statements were fairly new. i'm of the mind that emotion should have no bearing, and court is not the correct venue for emotional speeches or what amounts to eulogies. yes, the judge and jury have to keep in mind that a real human being had a life ended, not some hypothetical entity. however, justice should be meted out based on facts. that's why we have courts instead of posses. the penalty should depend on the crime, not how much the victim was loved, wanted, or needed.

as to the death penalty, i'm against it. i wish i could say that it was for some great humantarian reason, but i base my objections on logic. it's not logical that a jury gets it right every single time, and the death penalty, once carried out, cannot be undone. it's not logical that every judge will base his or her decisions on a non-prejudicial basis, whether consciously or subconsiously. the other consideration is money. it cost more to condemn someone to death than to house him for the rest of his or her life. wouldn't the money wasted be better spent on programs centered on preventing people from going to jail in the first place or rehabilitating the rehabilitatable if they're already in jail?

yes, there are people who do deserve to die, and it would give a lot of people--me included--a lot of pleasure to see them suffer and die. that satisfaction lasts for a minute, and then nothing changes. the person who was murdered doesn't come back. the family of the victim is not made whole. the families of those sentenced to death aren't guilty, so why should they be punished? killing the criminal puts his suffering at an end, but it begins the suffering for his innocent family. what's the sense in 2 families suffering? if we give in to our baser instincts, we're not much better than those who murder. the death penalty is revenge, pure and simple. an eye for an eye. enough of that, and everyone winds up blind.

sorry to babble on.

25 September, 2011 00:13  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

JM: The people I mentioned were sane enough to be responsible for their actions. They were not victims.

Nonnie: Most of your comment is really an argument for clearer sentencing guidelines, not for abolishing the death penalty. The fact that some people get harsher sentences than they deserve doesn't change the fact that some people do deserve death.

it's not logical that a jury gets it right every single time,

If there is any real doubt of guilt, that the defendant should not be convicted at all. The law is clear on that. There are cases of heinous crimes in which there is no doubt of the perpetrator's guilt.

the other consideration is money.

This shouldn't be an issue one way or the other. You wouldn't be more supportive of the death penalty if it were cheaper.

that satisfaction lasts for a minute,

In some cases the satisfaction of the victims' families would last much longer than a minute, and in any case, this isn't the reason for punishing criminals.

and then nothing changes.

Yes, it does. Justice has been done, and the criminal is guaranteed not to commit any further crimes.

the person who was murdered doesn't come back.

Imprisoning murderers doesn't bring the victim back, either. Nothing does. Do you think we should not punish murderers at all?

the families of those sentenced to death aren't guilty, so why should they be punished?

Sentencing a criminal to prison also makes the criminal's family suffer. This is unavoidable.

we're not much better than those who murder.

By this argument, if we imprison people we are no better than kidnappers, if we fine people we are no better than thieves, etc.

the death penalty is revenge, pure and simple.

No, the motivations for using the death penalty are the same as the motivations for using any other kind of punishment. In any case, I'm not a Christian and I don't consider revenge an inherently ignoble motive.

enough of that, and everyone winds up blind.

What does this mean? If we use the death penalty to punish murderers, everyone will end up dead? Obviously not so.

The issue here is wrongful conviction of the innocent. That needs to be stopped, even in cases where the death penalty does not apply. Spending decades in prison for something you didn't do is terrible also. Executing Ted Bundy was not an injustice.

25 September, 2011 04:50  

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