Ritualized Injustice

Ritualized Injustice

by digby

I haven't written about the Troy Davis execution but I've been reading about it. And it's heartbreaking:

Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for the 1989 killing of a police officer in Savannah, Ga. The Georgia pardon and parole board’s refusal to grant him clemency is appalling in light of developments after his conviction: reports about police misconduct, the recantation of testimony by a string of eyewitnesses and reports from other witnesses that another person had confessed to the crime.

This case has attracted worldwide attention, but it is, in essence, no different from other capital cases. Across the country, the legal process for the death penalty has shown itself to be discriminatory, unjust and incapable of being fixed. Just last week, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for Duane Buck, an African-American, hours before he was to die in Texas because a psychologist testified during his sentencing that Mr. Buck’s race increased the chances of future dangerousness. Case after case adds to the many reasons why the death penalty must be abolished.

The grievous errors in the Davis case were numerous, and many arose out of eyewitness identification. The Savannah police contaminated the memories of four witnesses by re-enacting the crime with them present so that their individual perceptions were turned into a group one. The police showed some of the witnesses Mr. Davis’s photograph even before the lineup. His lineup picture was set apart by a different background. The lineup was also administered by a police officer involved in the investigation, increasing the potential for influencing the witnesses. ... Studies of the hundreds of felony cases overturned because of DNA evidence have found that misidentifications accounted for between 75 percent and 85 percent of the wrongful convictions. The Davis case offers egregious examples of this kind of error.

Anyone who had read this blog for any length of time knows that I have an aversion to the death penalty across the board. It's cold blooded, premeditated, ritualized killing that does nothing but offer a faux catharsis and illusion of safety and justice. But nothing is more horrifying to me than the state executing an innocent man.

This is not the first time that the US is executing an innocent man, although to hear conservatives tell it, this is the one the thing the government does absolutely perfectly. (I've also heard people say it doesn't matter if we execute some innocent people --- price of freedom and all that. Those people suffer from a lack of empathy so strong that it borders on sociopathy. And there are a lot of them.)Our multi-tiered, crude system of law, the endemic racism, the imperfection of human beings and America's death culture guarantee that this ultimate state power is dispensed unjustly. Today, it looks like we are going to watch it happen before our eyes.

According to Greg Mitchell, we're also going to see the white supremacist who dragged James Byrd to his death in Texas in 1998 executed today. I think I'm supposed to be conflicted here and see this as some kind of moral dilemma, but I don't. This fellow has admitted to his crime and he's a putrid piece of human garbage. But killing him isn't justice either. It's just revenge and revenge just perpetuates more violence. Obviously, he's a dangerous killer and should be kept away from other humans for the rest of his life. But kill him? It only validates a system that's unjustifiable.

For a very slight bit of hope in the Davis case, read this at emptywheel, via Gaius Publius. It seems that even the most conservative "originalists" are having some second thoughts about killing innocent people.