When I first heard of the Troy Davis case some ten years ago, I thought to myself: “Yeah, whatever, they always claim innocence!” Still, Amnesty International was already getting involved, which suggested there was more to this story than met the eye. So I read up some more.
What I saw convinced me that something was wrong here. There was too much collusion, for one thing. The testimony of the man originally under suspicion should have been considered suspect, even worthless, from the outset. There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime (except for a pair of bloodied shorts, which only proved he was there—thy were never presented at trial), and it all came down to his word against nine other people. One was the original suspect. Seven of the remaining eight have since recanted their testimony.
Now it’s not unheard of for a witness or two to later admit they lied on the stand. Perhaps they are telling the truth, after the fact; perhaps they are feeling guilty because someone will die thanks to their testimony and they’re not happy about that. Perhaps their memory is failing (or, conversely, they are remembering things differently) and they now honestly believe their testimony was false, not because they lied but because a new detail occurred to them; in short, they are questioning themselves.
None of that is, in and of itself, unusual. Eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Honestly, it should be relied on only very carefully, and mostly to reinforce physical evidence.
The thing is, the fact that most of the witnesses recanted should have been enough to cause any of the numerous appeals and other legal maneuvers to be granted. Instead, the Supreme Court, which granted a stay of execution in 2008, asked Davis to prove he was innocent… while he was being presumed guilty because he was already convicted. Although this procedure is standard, it is also more likely to produce further injustice: the burden of proof is so high that the end result is nearly inevitable.
The condemned will still end up condemned.
Worse, tonight the same judicial body voted unanimously to deny his request for a stay of execution. Our current Supreme Court can’t agree what to have for lunch. I’d like to believe they were justified today, but sometimes logic needs to overrule the rules. Especially when you’re in a situation where you cannot take it back.
While the initial evidence is so clearly being disputed, it seems there should be an alternative solution. We cannot, and should not, be in the business of killing people whose guilt is so very obviously in doubt. I am convinced that, should the Attorney General seek to prosecute this case now, there would be no case, let alone a trial.
When I heard about this case ten years ago, I thought “Surely he will be released, or at least see his sentence commuted. That would provide some degree of justice.”
I was wrong.
I am convinced justice was most emphatically NOT served tonight. I feel for the MacPhail family, but I think their relief, though perfectly natural, stems from the results of a false conviction. Nonetheless, I wish the MacPhails much peace and blessings; may God continue to bless and enlighten them, in spite of their loss.
To the Davis’s, I believe Troy already said it all. May God watch over you and protect you.
To the real killer, may justice be done.