Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Justice Absent In Georgia?

It's grisly nightmare scenario - being held in prison for a crime you did not commit. If that cell is on Death Row, the nightmare is likely beyond description.

Unless there is a momentous change in Georgia, inmate Troy Davis will be executed today, despite his efforts which show the prosecutor's case against him has crumbled. Given that the victim of the murder Davis is accused of is a police officer, the legal system could be seeking an execution regardless of any doubts about the conviction.

There is no physical evidence in the case linking Davis to the crime, most of the prosecution hinged on eyewitness testimony - but seven of the nine eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony. One witness allegedly confessed that he was the killer.

Efforts to bring that accuser now turned confessor into court failed as Davis' defense attorneys were not given the authority to force a subpoena on him.

Tragically, our society has steadily become one in which we mistakenly think that the rules of our justice system are created to punish the guilty and not protect the innocent. Too often the public thinks the defense must prove innocence, which is not the reality - it is the prosecution which must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And once such proof has turned upside down or contradictory then - the very least which should follow is that an execution be halted.

Some years back, Davis was withing 2 hours of execution and received a stay. Living on that kind of edge is more than I can imagine. For the families of the murder victim, I doubt Time has healed or will heal their loss. I cannot imagine their suffering either. Like most everyone else in the world, we're seeing the events in Georgia and in those lives from enormously safe vantage points.

A few days ago, a former Republican prosecutor in California, Don Heller, who wrote the legislation re-instating the death penalty, issued an editorial calling for an end to the death penalty. Though somewhat crudely citing costs as a motivator, he also adds that the loss of life for one innocent person amid a broken system demands that changes be made.

But it appears no appeal, no petition, no calls for clemency will help Troy Davis. The real killer may never be punished. For Davis and for murder victim Mark MacPhail, and for the rest of America, the decisions in Georgia are expanding a tragedy.

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