It’s been twenty years. Two years after the 1989 murder of a Georgia police officer, Troy Davis was convicted and sentenced to die for the crime. He has still, eighteen long years later, still not been executed.
Former federal prosecutor and noted softie Bob Barr writes an op-ed piece in the NYT:
There is no abuse of government power more egregious than executing an innocent man. But that is exactly what may happen if the United States Supreme Court fails to intervene on behalf of Troy Davis.
Mr. Davis is facing execution for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., even though seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony against him. Many of these witnesses now say they were pressured into testifying falsely against him by police officers who were understandably eager to convict someone for killing a comrade. No court has ever heard the evidence of Mr. Davis’s innocence.
After the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit barred Mr. Davis from raising his claims of innocence, his attorneys last month petitioned the Supreme Court for an original writ of habeas corpus. This would be an extraordinary procedure — provided for by the Constitution but granted only a handful of times since 1900. However, absent this, Mr. Davis faces an extraordinary and obviously final injustice.
In the same article, regarding his vote for the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which allows such an absurd result, Barr explains:
I wanted to stop the unfounded and abusive delays in capital cases that tend to undermine our criminal justice system.
Sorry Barr. You, and the other pro-death penalty advocates can’t have it both ways.
Frivolous appeals that clog the system from guilty-as-sin murderers got you down? They’re all filing petitions and writs just to avoid execution? Fine, write a law that shortens time limits, and limits successive appeals.
To insure finality, to protect victim’s families from the pain of not knowing when the condemned will die, make certain courts are able to “bar [defendants] from raising claims of actual innocence”. Otherwise, there will be no end. Certainly can’t have them dying of old age before the needle gets them.
But please accept that there will be other types of casualties: common sense; the public’s regard for the courts and the so called rule-of-law; and, of course, the occasionally innocent man.
Either/Or. Your pick. The last paragraph of your impassioned plea is misguided. Everyone knows you can’t have your cake and eat it too:
I am a firm believer in the death penalty, but I am an equally firm believer in the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution. To execute Troy Davis without having a court hear the evidence of his innocence would be unconscionable and unconstitutional.