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Posts filed under Death Penalty

Legal Lynching (cont’d)

From Balko:

Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner is set to be executed on November 9.

. . . Skinner (who has already come within an hour of execution) is about to be executed despite the fact that there is testable DNA from the murder weapon, the rape kit, hairs one of the victims was found clutching, and a jacket left at the crime scene similar to one worn by another possible suspect, all of which has yet to be tested.

And it's even worse than that. The state started testing on the hairs a decade ago. When preliminary mitochondrial testing came back negative as a match to either Skinner or the victim, the state just decided to stop further testing.

It's one thing to consider all of the evidence, find it unconvincing, and then proceed with an execution despite strong disagreement from the suspect's supporters. It's a whole other level of moral culpability to deliberately remain ignorant about evidence that could definitively establish guilt or innocence.

The testing will at most cost a few thousand dollars. Skinner's attorneys and a lab and Arizona have already agreed to cover that cost. It would take no longer than a few months. . . . I have no idea if Hank Skinner is guilty. Neither does the state of Texas. The difference is that I and anyone with a lick of conscience would prefer we find out before the man is put to death.

— Radley Balko, Hank Skinner execution date less than a month away, ub The Agitator (2011-10-10)

But of course the State has no conscience; it only has a Process, and that Process has been followed as long as the State’s henchmen can remain officially ignorant of exculpatory evidence. All of which is to say, a sad and dangerous gang of men — law-makers, prosecutors, judges, prison-guards and executioners — have shoved their conscience and their intelligence out of the way, and filled up the empty space with the excuses of legality and the ceremoniously-safeguarded ignorance of the state’s Criminal Justice System. In reality they are nothing more than a lynch mob in badges, suits, uniforms and black robes.

See also.

Dr. Anarchy Answers Your Questions: on the Presidential assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki

Dear Dr. Anarchy,

Was the al-Awlaki Killing Legal?

Progressively Perplexed in Peoria

Dear PPP:

I don’t care whether the al-Awlaki killing was legal or illegal. And neither should you. If you fell in love with a man years ago, and he turned out to be a frightening, violent psychopath, and he kept trying to excuse his behavior by saying, Well, technically nothing I did was really against the law; and besides, baby, I’m just trying to keep you safe… then what you have is still a frightening, violent psychopath. It’s just that he’s a frightening, violent psychopath with a law degree instead of a conscience. I suggest that you dump him and get away as quick as safely possible.

Dr. Anarchy.

PS. Legality has nothing to do with morality, and if everything our Progressive Peace President did were perfectly legal, that would only put him in the august legally-licensed company of executioners, slave-hunters, and the Einsatzgruppen SS. The problem with these Presidential assassinations — whether directed against American citizens, or against disarmed foreign captives, or (what is overwhelmingly most common) against dozens of completely innocent women and children who just happened to be trying to exist in the general vicinity of a couple people our Progressive Peace President considered supsicious enough for a missile or two — is that they are evil, tyrannical and terrifying, because they entail the President’s claim to have a right to kill literally anyone, anywhere, on his whim alone and without any possible appeal; and the reasons that that is a problem have nothing to do with what the law or any other scrap of paper says. They are murders, out-and-out murders without any pretense of restraint or accountability for the people who commit them or the presidents who order them. If they are illegal, no court of law in the vicinity will ever consider holding anyone accountable for it, and the attempt to appeal to the law is rhetorically and politically useless. If they are legal, then the law itself is a crime and an infamy, and deserves no attention at all, except to trample it underfoot.

As Charlie Davis puts it:

What’s legally permissible, remember, is not the same as what’s morally permissible: Owning human beings was once the unchallenged law of the land, while those who helped fugitive slaves — not those who brutalized them — found themselves locked away in prison cells. A Southern plantation owner could win any legal challenge to his ownership of slaves by citing a dozen federal and state statutes. That didn’t make it right. And while some abolitionists did adopt legal arguments against slavery, they never forgot their most potent case against the infamous institution: the moral one.

Forget the law. Does any person, whether a saint or a statesman, have the moral right to unilaterally take the life of another? Is it just or wise to invest in one fallible human being, or even a group of them, the power to kill and the ability to do so without so much as a rubber-stamp conviction in a military tribunal — and without fear of so much as a harsh word from establishment liberal humanitarians? The answer, I’d argue, is unambiguous: no. Allowing one man or woman the right to be judge, jury, and executioner is a recipe for totalitarianism, one that eviscerates all other human rights and the moral fiber of those who would be a party to it.

Back when slavery was as legal and respectable as blowing up Pakistani tribesmen with Predator drones is now, author and dissident Henry David Thoreau published an essay on the duty of civil disobedience in which he noted that, in fact, Law never made a man a whit more just. Indeed, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice.

Right now, too many Americans — pundits especially — have an undue respect for statutes and precedents, leading even those on the left to speak of things such as the laws of war, as odd a turn of phrase as the rules of rape. And it’s making them agents of injustice.

— Charlie Davis @ Antiwar.com (2011-10-03): When It Comes to State-Sanctioned Murder, Morality Matters Most

See also.

Legal lynching.

R.I.P. Troy Anthony Davis (Oct. 9, 1968 – Sep. 21, 2011)

Troy Davis executed. ABC World News (21 September 2011).

Troy Davis was executed this evening after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a last-minute stay of execution.

Davis died at 11:08 p.m. ET, according to a Georgia Department of Corrections official.

Eyewitnesses described the mood in the execution chamber as “somber” as Davis declared his innocence a final time and relatives of his alleged murder victim looked on.

The execution was delayed more than four hours as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed last-minute arguments from Davis’ legal team and the state of Georgia over whether his execution should be blocked.

The court’s decision to deny the stay came without comment after 10 p.m. ET.

. . . Davis was convicted of the 1989 murder of off-duty Savannah, Ga., policeman Mark MacPhail, and had his execution stayed four times over the course of his 22 years on death row, but multiple legal appeals during that time failed to prove his innocence.

Public support grew for Davis based on the recanted testimony of seven witnesses from his trial and the possible confession of another suspect, which his defense team claimed cast too much doubt on Davis’ guilt to follow through with an execution.

Several witnesses recanted their testimony that Davis fired the shot that killed MacPhail.

Troy Davis was innocent and this was a premeditated murder by the State of Georgia — nothing more and nothing less than a torturous, slow-motion legal lynching. The courts, the governors, and the parole boards knew that there was every reason to doubt his guilt, but they don’t give a damn, because each court formally refused to listen to or consider any substantive new evidence — like the fact that there was no physical evidence to connect Davis to the murder, and more than half the witnesses admitted that they lied on the stand (under intense pressure from Georgia police) during the original trial. Be that as it may the sentence had been passed and the paperwork filed and you can hardly stop to consider substantive evidence of innocence once the procedural question of his trial has been sealed under the authority of the State. You can’t stop the machine of governmental justice from grinding for something so paltry as an innocent man’s life; there’s a principle involved.

And the principle is power. The power of death. That is the Majesty of the Law; that is its morality; that is its justice.

See also

The Nine have decided, without explanation, to let the State of Georgia go ahead with its proposal to murder Troy Davis at a time and place of their choosing.

The Nine have decided, without explanation, to let the State of Georgia go ahead with its proposal to murder Troy Davis at a time and place of their choosing. They are apparently acting in the belief that making sure all the paperwork stays settled, preserving the institutions of monopolistic legal finality, and practicing due deference to other judges’ turf, matters more than something as paltry as whether or not an innocent man is about to be killed for a crime he did not commit.

Here is what I got last evening from Amnesty International USA:

Dear Charles,

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Troy Anthony Davis’ appeal. His fate is back in the hands of Georgia authorities who may seek a new execution date at any time.

The Supreme Court’s decision to deny Troy Davis’ petition means that no court of law will ever hold a hearing on the witnesses who have recanted their trial testimony in sworn affidavits.

Doubts about his guilt raised by these multiple witness recantations will never be resolved. An execution under such a cloud of doubt would undermine public confidence in the state’s criminal justice system and would be a grave miscarriage of justice.

The state of Georgia can still do the responsible thing and prevent the execution of Troy Davis:

Sincerely, Larry Cox
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

As I said in my earlier post:

First, I should say that, as a matter of fact, it does not matter to me — and it should not matter to you — one bit whether or not Troy Davis really is responsible for the killing he’s alleged to have committed, or, if he is responsible, whether or not the prosecution legitimate proved their case in the midst of what appears to have been a very dirty bit of business by the Gangsters in Blue. There seems to be good evidence for massive police misconduct, and for the likelihood of Davis’s innocence. This evidence is important, and let’s go ahead and scream about it as much as possible to the men and women sitting in the court and corrections system, if it will save Troy Davis from the gallows.

But, just between us, we need to remember that even if he were obviously guilty as hell, the State has no right to commit premeditated murder in order to make him pay for it. The penalty of death is the ultimate, definitive expression of the State’s cold and sadistic violence, exercised with no defensive purpose and against women and men who no longer pose any threat to any living soul, on the theory that in the end your body and your life belong to the State, and can be mutilated and destroyed by it, at its pleasure, for its own special purposes — whether to exact blood vengeance, or to send a message to unrelated third parties, cut into your body by the Harrow of the criminal justice system. It is nothing more and nothing less than State-sanctioned murder, and it ought to be abolished immediately, completely, and forever.

Second, you should also note, from this story, that in the view of the Georgia Supreme Court, final arbiter that it is, getting all the paperwork settled once and for all is apparently more important than whether or not an innocent man will be slaughtered on the basis of lying testimony extracted by intimidation and coercion at the hands of an overzealous police department, desperately seeking a black cop-killer to lynch. You may find this appalling; but it should not be surprising. This approach to The Law is essential to the very nature of the State and its legal system. Authority is held to take precedence over fact and evidence; imposed finality is held to take precedence over justice, even when it comes to punishments that are utterly irreversible, destroying forever any hope of appeal. Otherwise, anyone might just go around any old time and prove somebody’s innocence and spring them from the prisons or the gallows, a judge’s say-so notwithstanding; a journalist’s expose or an ad hoc committee’s discoveries and reasoned decisions might be just as good as that the Nine. Without sovereign authority to stand between the people and justice, doing justice would be nothing a mere human institution, open to anybody who can do some research and submit facts to a candid world. Why, it’d be Anarchy! So instead, paying due deference and having the right stamp on the right papers and uttering the right ritual incantations is held to be more important than somehing so paltry as a man’s life. That is the Majesty of the Law; that is its morality; that is its justice.

Here is an early modern engraving of a ghastly skeleton, robed and crowned, holds a sceptre and a polished glass with the words, THE MIRROR THAT FLATTERS NOT.

The Final Arbiter

See also:

U.S. Supreme Court grants reprieve to Troy Davis

The United States Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution to stop, at least for the time being, the State-mandated murder of Troy Davis.

The State of Georgia was planning to murder Troy Davis about an hour ago. They were planning to do so even though his conviction was based entirely on the testimony of nine eye-witnesses, seven of whom have since recanted their testimony and claimed that they were intimidated into giving false testimony by threats from the cops. Neither physical evidence nor a murder weapon was ever produced by the police. But the Georgia Board of Paroles and Pardons refused to give Davis a new evidentiary hearing, to investigate whether or not this man was about to be murdered based on nothing but lies, because a man’s life means nothing next to the importance of finality in the State’s criminal system. Yesterday the Georgia Supreme Court refused to stay the execution because, in their view, U.S. Supreme Court properly has jurisdiction over Davis’ pending petition, and a man’s life means nothing next to the importance of due deference to another judge’s turf. Never mind that, under normal circumstances, the U.S. Supreme Court would not even have been ready to hear Troy Davis’s plea for a new evidentiary hearing until after the State of Georgia killed Davis. Thankfully, after agreeing to an emergency hearing, the Supreme Court did the right thing and put a halt to the killing, at least until after Davis’s petition can be heard.

JACKSON, Georgia (CNN) — The U.S. Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve to a Georgia man fewer than two hours before he was to be executed for the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer. Troy Anthony Davis, 39, has his execution stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Troy Anthony Davis learned that his execution had been stayed when he saw it on television, he told CNN via telephone in his first interview after the stay was announced.

He said he was thankful to God for the news that came during an emergency session the U.S. Supreme Court convened.

Davis said everyone should pray for the slain officer’s family.

The 39-year-old also said that he is very grateful for everything that everyone is doing for him and that he would accept whatever decision the Supreme Court rendered in the coming days about his case.

At the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, a crowd of Davis’ supporters, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, erupted in cheers when Sharpton announced the stay. Some shouted Hallelujah!

— Rusty Dornin, CNN (2008-09-23): U.S. Supreme Court stays Georgia execution

And Amen.

(Thanks to mi hermana for making my day better with this story.)

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