jeudi 22 septembre 2011

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

You'd think that, with the Pope, a former President of the United States and ex Director of the FBI taking up your cause, enough serious doubt would've been raised to at least stay the execution last night of Troy Davis. But then again, I'm speaking of a nation that doesn't exist, one guided and ruled by rational thought, one in which authorities would rather err on the side of life.

But Georgia did what Georgia does and took the heat off Texas, Utah, Kansas, Arizona, South Carolina, Wisconsin and other states that have embarrassed us before the world. After issuing a brief reprieve that bought Troy Davis four hours and eight minutes of life, the SCOTUS allowed the execution to proceed without dissent and the machine had its way and executed an innocent man.

If even the Willingham case didn't qualify as the Holy Grail for which death penalty opponents have been searching, the case of Troy Davis, a man convicted and executed on purely circumstantial evidence, will surely prove to be it. The Supreme Court set the bar absurdly high: Davis's attorneys were required to prove beyond a doubt that he was innocent whereas the state court had to prove guilt beyond a doubt.

Obviously, the prosecution didn't do that but the 12 amateurs in the jury box saw things differently. Now three of them had come forward to say, "If I knew then what I know now..." Seven of the nine witnesses who claimed they saw Davis shoot Officer MacPhail three times had since recanted. And a man admitted while drunk at a party two years ago that he was the shooter.

The police authorities, so desperate to convict Davis and tie him to the scene of the crime, falsified ballistics evidence and claimed the shell casings at the murder scene were fired from the same gun in another crime for which Davis had already been convicted.

Yes, in the United States of America, men and women can and have paid the ultimate price for racism, political zealotry and just plain stupidity, arrogance and a pathological dread of admitting that a tragic mistake had been made. People get convicted all the time on circumstantial evidence, which is really just a fancy legal phrase for elevated coincidence (and sometimes just plain coincidence).

I wasn't this ashamed to be an American even right after we'd invaded Iraq and, before that, Afghanistan. Yet the always backward state of Georgia managed to make me feel more ashamed to be an American, and reluctant to admit that it's part of our nation. I have Georgia on my Mind, namely fantasizing about replacing it with Guam or Puerto Rico or maybe a barren sandbar imported from Dubai.

Anything, God, but a state in which the Board of Paroles and Pardons is as stupid as the one in Texas and is unmoved by curiosity in light of all the troubling questions and reversals regarding Davis's case. Anything but a state in which the Governor, a Tea Bagger psychopath named Nathan Deal, is trying to ram through a proposal whereby a person can be sentenced to death by a mere majority of jurors instead of a unanimous vote.

When a man gets three stays of execution and a reprieve after spending 20 years on Death Row, obviously the machine isn't running smoothly. And despite Davis getting off the hook almost as many times as Dick Cheney, despite the recantations and reversals, the plainly falsified evidence, Georgia is a deep southern state in which a black man was nonetheless executed for killing a white man. Try though they might, there's no way the Georgia penal authorities will ever wipe away the picture that that paints: That of a chemical lynching.

Troy Davis paid the ultimate price for living in a state and in a country where the system takes the place of human thought, mercy and compassion, a system in which the unstoppable machine grinds to its bloody conclusion when even the Governor and the President of the United States don't even qualify as fail safe measures.

Troy Davis' execution at 11:08 last night is now being looked at as the greatest blow to anti capital punishment factions in years but in time, when Davis's innocence is finally established beyond a reasonable doubt, when they catch the real guy and have to execute him, too, for MacPhail's murder, it'll prove to be a very potent weapon

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