Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sometimes law doesn't work

Troy Davis’s lawyers filed an appeal to the United States Supreme Court this week. From what I gather, this is his last chance to avoid the death sentence he has. If you want to read all of the background, use Google. Short story, seven of nine witnesses at his trial have recanted their testimony.

Here’s a link to a story about judges, prosecutors and conservative politicians filing a brief with the Supreme Court asking that it give him a hearing on his claim that he is innocent.

I could go on about the legal garbage about the burden of someone like Davis trying to win this sort of appeal. I won’t. If you have seven of nine witnesses and a bunch of lawyers and politicians that are not sympathetic to defendants saying something’s wrong with a criminal conviction, chances are that something is wrong.

The Supreme Court can, quite properly, using legal precedent on the issue, deny the appeal. My quick reading of the law indicates to me that he shouldn’t get any relief, even though he may well not have committed the crime for which he’s sentenced to die. Or, the Justices can do what is right and send the case to a trial judge to hear what the witnesses have to say.


Minnesotablue said...

Isn't it always better to exhaust all avenues to ensure the person who did the crime is absolutely guilty before putting him to death? Isn't that what a democratic society does?

The Curmudgeon said...

Witnesses recant all the time, especially in gang cases. For some reason, after members of the gang affiliated with the defendant find and contact family members of the witnesses, the witnesses' memories become suddenly hazy... indistinct... even entirely different from what they were heretofore.

Having said that, though, I heard the best argument against the death penalty ever over cocktails the other afternoon: Any lawyer who has ever tried a case or argued an appeal will agree that he or she has won some cases that seemed to be sure losers... and lost some cases that seemed to be sure winners.

If that is the case -- and I can't argue with the proposition -- then how can we ever let a trial decide that someone must die?