A Good Time to Drag Feet

If there is ever a time to drag some feet, and to halt before a point of no return, this is it.

You’ve all seen the movie…

Parking lot of a Burger King.

Shots fired. White male lies shot on the ground.

Panic ensues inside BK. Some customers hide while others flee.

Black males are seen running away. 

Very few clues. No weapon found.  

Turns out that the dead man is an off-duty police officer. Police step up efforts to find the shooter. A “witness”, “Red”, comes forward and implicates “Davis” a man who had been near the scene. A manhunt begins. The police “interview” friends of “Davis”. A little time with each friend, and the police are told what they want to hear.

“Davis” turns himself in.  Above-mentioned friends and “Red” testify against “Davis”.  He is found guilty.  He is sentenced to death.

Witnesses recant.  The police “threatened” or “coerced” them to incriminate Davis, they say.  One witness not recanting, “Red”, is said to be the actual shooter.

“Davis” appeals. His public defenders, at a key moment in the appeal process, face a budget crisis and the department is cut back by 70%.  As his team struggles to find pro-bono lawyers, and gather testimony from the witnesses, the courts said that it was too late to press the appeal. As expected in the movies, technicalities and procedure prevent the new evidence to be presented.

The situation gets more complicated, when an unrelated act of terrorism leads to a set of anti-terrorism laws that make it somewhat impossible for persons sentenced to death, like “Davis”, to be heard at the federal level.

Much later, “Davis” is days from scheduled execution. Despite the years that have gone by, “Davis” has not had a single shot at having the new evidence presented.  Yet, he has plenty of declines on technical merits.

Time has run out, or has it?  Will this movie end without resolving the mystery?  Will there be a new trial, after which the viewers will know whether it was “Davis”, “Red” or another person who shot the victim?  Will the director of this movie choose not to save “Davis”, to make a point about the finality of the death sentence, and the irony of his innocence?

Yes, we’ve seen movies like this.  Yet, this is no movie. The real, living person, Troy Anthony Davis is to be executed on September 23, 2008.  You can read the Washington Post‘s article to learn more about this story, and Time‘s account of his fight to be retried. You can see Amnesty International‘s effort to correct an injustice, or participate in the ACLU‘s fight to give Davis another chance in our judicial system.

There is no need to rush into an execution. While there may be some long-awaited closure for the family of the officer killed, this execution won’t carry any other positives.  And imagine the possibility that someday we may realize that Davis was innocent. Does this possibility outweigh the closure?  Will the thought that the real murderer may be free, unrepentant and possibly dangerous, weigh down on us?  (The thought of executing a quite likely innocent man is heavy enough.)

I am yet another voice asking that we give Davis a new day in court. There are plenty of reasons he deserves that. Let him present his new evidence. Let capable prosecutors examine the evidence for flaws. Let a judge and jury fairly weigh the case.  

Here’s hoping that our justice system, and humanity, prevail.

The links found above are:

Do something.


Update – Sept. 23, 2008:  With only 2 hours left to the time of his execution, Troy Anthony Davis was granted a reprieve from the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court now needs to decide if they will hear his case. If they decline, then Davis will be executed.


~ by mz on September 10, 2008.

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