Parole board denies clemency for Troy Davis

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The state Board of Pardons and Paroles has declined to commute the death sentence of Troy Anthony Davis. (Note: This piece is not about the guilt of innocence of Davis, but rather the outright cruelty of the death penalty.)

The Davis family said through a spokeswoman they were not ready to comment on the decision Tuesday morning but may hold a news conference later in the day. They are still planning to visit Davis at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson, the location of the state’s death row and execution chamber.

“It’s the wrong decision,” said one of Davis’ attorneys, Jason Ewart. “It’s a mistake.”

He said the five-member board ended its presentation after three hours while the other side — prosecutors and the MacPhail family — was given at least four hours.

“It sounds like they [prosecutors and family members] just brow beat them [the board],” Ewart said.

Davis’ lawyers said they are considering launching yet another  last-ditch round of appeals.
“I am utterly shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice,” Brian Kammer, one of Davis’ attorneys, said Tuesday after the decision was announced. (source)

Davis is scheduled to die on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson. What the state has planned for Davis is cruel and unusual punishment. No one should know the date and hour of their death.  The constant march towards the chambers, combined with the many stays of execution, must be torturous for this man.  Imagine if you were told that you had just over 24 hours to live, and that those last hours were to be spent behind bars and strictly regimented.  He will be offered one last meal, which can cost no more than ten dollars, before being sent to his death, and on his death certificate the coroner will enter homicide as the cost of death.  At that time, the state will be guilty of the exact same act that it is punishing Davis for. It will have created a whole new cycle of victims, built from all of those who love Troy.

Davis is a Black man and it has long been accepted that when it comes to penal industrial complex, lady justice is anything but blind.  Georgia has a long history of putting Black men to death.  Simply rolling down the death count from from 1924- 2009,  [pdf]it is impossible not to notice that Black men have overwhelmingly been subject to the ultimate penalty.

Capital punishment in the U.S. is also extremely racist in nature and the excellent work by Iowa University law professor David Baldus and his colleagues clearly demonstrates this reality. Baldus reports in 1990 that in Georgia “the death sentence was four times more likely to be applied when the victim was white rather than Black and that Blacks who kill Whites are 11 times more likely to receive the death penalty then Whites who kill Blacks” (Georgia Moratorium Campaign). 

Racist traditions in criminal justice are definitely maintained in Georgia’s courtrooms. Georgia attorney Stephen Bright notes in the Santa Clara Law Review “At least five men who were sentenced to death in Georgia had lawyers who referred to them in court as ‘niggers.’” 

This also demonstrates another major problem with death penalty convictions, which is that they are generally reserved for the poor who cannot afford other than court appointed attorneys who are renowned for not pursuing justice for their clients or have no resources for adequate defense. (source)

Race and class combine to equal an overwhelming imbalance the men intentionally murdered by the state. If the death penalty is about seeking justice, then why is there no justice for the Black men who have lost their lives?  The death penalty is the legalized institutionalization of lynching of Black men. The numbers are absolutely inarguable. If and when the state decides to execute Troy, he will be another Black male in the long tradition of racist state murder.

Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, from an opinion dissenting from the Supreme Court’s decision denying review in a Texas death penalty case, Callins v. Collins, Feb. 22, 1994.

Twenty years have passed since this court declared that the death penalty must be imposed fairly and with reasonable consistency or not at all, and despite the effort of the states and courts to devise legal formulas and procedural rules to meet this…challenge, the death penalty remains fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination…and mistake…

From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored…to develop…rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor…Rather than continue to coddle the court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved…I feel…obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies… Perhaps one day this court will develop procedural rules or verbal formulas that actually will provide consistency, fairness and reliability in a capital-sentencing scheme. I am not optimistic that such a day will come. I am more optimistic, though, that this court eventually will conclude that the effort to eliminate arbitrariness while preserving fairness ‘in the infliction of [death] is so plainly doomed to failure that it and the death penalty must be abandoned altogether.’ (Godfrey v. Georgia, 1980) I may not live to see that day, but I have faith that eventually it will arrive. The path the court has chosen lessen us all.”

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