Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Quality of Mercy

UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution shortly after 5 pm today, a few hours before Troy Davis' scheduled execution. I had checked the news earlier this afternoon and no announcement had been made at that time. I later received an email from someone who had read my post telling me of the stay. See Supreme Court issues stay of execution for Davis.

According to SCOTUSblog:

The Supreme Court blocked the scheduled execution Tuesday evening in Georgia of Troy Anthony Davis, giving itself time to consider his appeal challenging his conviction for the murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah. The stay order is here. It was issued about two hours before the execution was to be carried out.

The Court is to consider Davis’ petition for review (08-66) at its Conference next Monday. The stay of execution will be lifted automatically if review is denied, the order said. If review is granted, the stay will remain in effect until the case is decided.

Can I say that I am shocked that the Court granted the reprieve. Just when I give up hope for justice from these Justices, they decide to do the right thing.

Perhaps the quality of mercy is not strained after all.


Via The Quaker Agitator, today at 7 pm, Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed by the state of Georgia. Despite questions of innocence raised in his conviction for the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer, the state of Georgia appears determined that the show must go on.

As noted in the Huffington Post, Faith-Based Cruelty: The Other Georgia:
Troy Anthony Davis, almost certainly an innocent man, knows. He'll die Tuesday, September 23, 2008. Never mind his conviction was based solely on the testimony of witnesses, seven of whom have recanted, saying they were coerced by Savannah police and changing what they said in court. Never mind signed affidavits implicating one of the two witnesses who did not recant as the actual killer. Or that there was no other evidence against Mr. Davis -- a total lack of physical evidence -- and no new evidence has ever been heard in court because the appeals process is increasingly restricted. Never mind the national and international outcry, pleas for justice and for Troy Anthony Davis' life.
See also, Anatomy of a Frame-up: The Shocking Case of Troy Davis.

As the time draws near, the options for mercy -- even temporarily -- are dim. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the Georgia Supreme Court denied a request for a stay of execution yesterday, Parole board says it won't reconsider Davis' execution:
In July 2007, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles stepped in and stayed Davis’ execution less than 24 hours before it was to be carried out. But on Monday, the board rejected pleas to reconsider its recent decision to deny clemency on grounds there is too much doubt as to whether Davis shot and killed a Savannah police officer.

Also Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court denied Davis’ request for a stay of execution. Justice Robert Benham cast the lone dissent.

Davis’ last hope to avoid his 7 p.m. Tuesday execution now appears to rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, where his lawyers have also asked for a stay of execution.

Davis, 39, sits on death row for the Aug. 19, 1989, murder of Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. But since Davis’ 1991 trial, seven key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.

His claims of innocence has drawn international attention, with Pope Benedict XVI and former President Jimmy Carter asking for Davis’ death sentence to be commuted to life in prison without parole.

With cases like that of Davis', it clear that justice is not the paramount mission of our justice system. If it were, the answer to the question of innocence would prevail over the upholding of a conviction of death. Yet, that is not the case. NPR's Morning Edition covered the case, Execution Nears For Georgia Inmate, noting:

The Southern regional director of Amnesty International, Jared Feuer, says that to this day, no one has looked at whether the evidence points to Davis' innocence or to his guilt. He says the fact that seven witnesses recanted, combined with the absence of physical evidence or a murder weapon, raises too much doubt about whether the state is executing an innocent man.

"And that's why for us, Troy Anthony Davis' case symbolizes all that is wrong with the death penalty," Feuer said. "You have questions of improper witness handling. You have procedural obstacles that get in the way of the truth. You have issues of race and, ultimately, you have a system that can't go back and correct its mistakes," he says.

Davis' life is now in the hands of the Justices of the US Supreme Court, where I fear the quality of mercy may be strained.

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