Tuesday, September 20, 2011

In Georgia, About What You'd Expect

Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles - Official Picture (2010)
There they are.  The State Board of Pardons and Paroles.  The state is Georgia and they're the ones - one  woman and four men - who held the power of life and death over Troy Davis.
As I said the other day, as I routinely say, I don't know what happened back in 1989 when Officer MacPhail was killed.  Maybe Troy killed him.  Maybe not.
What I know is that the evidence of his guilt has mostly dissolved and been revealed as fiction as the evidence of his factual innocence has developed.  And there's a growing body of evidence that the actual killer was Sylvester Coles.
Yesterday they held a hearing, those five did.  They could have announced their decision afterward.  It was widely assumed they would.  They didn't.  They put it off, until today.
Maybe they were considering hard.
Maybe they were sleeping on it, examining their collective conscience.
Maybe they just all wanted to go out for a beer.
Because they held the power of life or death over a man who, frankly, is probably innocent (though I don't know, you don't know, and more to the point, they don't know).
And maybe they just didn't really care.
Because, after all, shit happens.
And Sylvester Coles, who may very well have killed Officer MacPhail, didn't recant his testimony. 
So they denied clemency.
Who are you going to believe, after all?
Except that at this point it really shouldn't be about belief.  It should (if you're going to be killing people in the first place) be  about doubt. But not if you're the Board of P & P.
Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, points to the hypocrisy.
In 2007 the Board vowed that no execution would go forward unless there was ‘no doubt’ about guilt, a vow that has now been rendered meaningless.
Scott Greenfield, who was predicting what the Board would do rather than reporting on it put the finish on it.
The failure of proof is a failure of the system.  The member of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole will not decide that the system to which they've dedicated their lives is a failure.  The sacrifice of one more man to the system must be made.  Even if Troy Davis is innocent, he won't be the first innocent man sacrificed to maintain the image of the best system ever invented.
It's not too late, of course.
The Board could reconsider.  The District Attorney could, apparently, vacate the death warrant.  Epiphany is possible.
It's also possible that the earth could be struck by a passing asteroid this afternoon rendering the whole thing moot.
Epiphany is no more likely.
Troy Davis, probably factually innocent of murder but possibly guilty, legally guilty in any event, will almost certainly be murdered tomorrow.
Georgians will or won't sleep better.  Not enough of them will care.  One woman and four men should probably have nightmares.  If they do, they probably won't admit it.


  1. pclr

    It's a shame what is happening to Troy Davis. Witness identification is one of the largest assets yet largest downfalls of the criminal justice system.


  2. As of right now, so far as I know, Georgia is holding off with no stay having been issued just in case the SCOTUS does something. Don't you find that a little different?

  3. John,

    No, it's not particularly different. Most states, perhaps all, will hold off on a killing for a few hours while they wait for a decision on a stay from SCOTUS. Texas did the other day in the Duane Buck case. Ohio did it for one of my clients. I can't say it always happens, but I think it's probably the norm.