Thursday, August 02, 2007

Dead man walking

Injustice comes in many forms, but one of the most pernicious is the injustice of the death penalty on the basis of shoddy, questionable evidence and perjury.

Troy A. Davis has been on the Georgia death row for 17 years. His trial was a paragon of injustice: at one point, his state-appointed lawyer turned up drunk in court; when one prosecution witness tried to change her testimony and admit to perjuring herself, she was arrested and prevented from giving evidence at the trial. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and of the nine eyewitnesses who testimony convicted him, seven have recanted or changed their testimony, and claimed that they were pressured by investigators to lie under oath.

As Digby of Hullabalo writes, the US Supreme Court has refused to hear his appeal, on the basis of a 1996 law which "streamlines" the death penalty, allowing the state to kill people faster, with fewer of those pesky appeals, and new evidence proving his innocence be damned.

This sad case is another demonstration of the moral bankruptcy of the Christian Fundamentalists who decide matters of life and death for decent people. I don't know which is worse: police and prosecutors willing to convict the innocent and allow the guilty to escape, or the hypocritical, Holy-Than-Thou Christians sitting in judgement over others. One of the old men of the American Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, wrote in Herrera v. Collins regarding the possibility of an innocent man being executed:

With any luck, we shall avoid ever having to face this embarrassing question again, since it is improbable that evidence of innocence as convincing as today's opinion requires would fail to produce an executive pardon.

Never mind the rule of law. Don't bother finding innocent people innocent or reversing unjust and unsafe convictions. The President will simply give the guy a pardon.

With any luck.

(In)Justice Scalia, who apparently believes that bringing evidence to trial is the defendant's privilege and not a right, doesn't see the execution of the innocent as anything worth getting upset about: it just sends them to God sooner. In 2002, he gave a speech explaining:

For the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal, a grave sin which causes one to lose his soul, but losing this physical life in exchange for the next – the Christian attitude is reflected in the words Robert Bolt’s play has Thomas More saying to the headsman: "Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God." And when Cramner asks whether he is sure of that, More replies, "He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him."

Save us from the Believers and their "morality".

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