Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Troy Davis's Execution

Several months ago, a friend tried to interest me in advocating for Troy Davis as being wrongfully convicted of murder. I got some information from my friend and did a little research on my own. Nothing about the case indicated to me that Davis was innocent. The postconviction motion alleged that seven witnesses had recanted their testimony, and a hearing was held to allow proper proof that the witnesses recanted. At the hearing, you would expect that those seven witnesses would have marched in succession to the stand and stated under oath that they were wrong when they testified to facts which incriminated Davis. None of the witnesses testified. The defense called no witnesses at all.

Articles reporting this development suggested Davis' attorney was incompetent for not calling the witnesses. It seemed obvious to me what was going on. Davis' attorney didn't call the witnesses because they would not recant their testimony.

The media seems to have confused allegations with proof. The motion and supporting affidavits made an allegation that the witnesses recanted, but they were not sufficient judicial proof that the witnesses recanted. The motion simply formed the basis for a hearing to determine whether the witnesses recanted. At the hearing, the defense failed to prove the allegations in the motion. No recantation. No evidence of innocence. Case closed.

I tried to point out to my friend that motions aren't proof and that the burden of proof at this stage of the proceedings was on the defendant, not the state. The defense failed to carry their burden, and the law moved forward.

Was it possible that Davis was innocent? In human affairs, there is always room for doubt. Almost nothing can be proven beyond all doubt.

Was Davis proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? It certainly appears that he was. That is the standard of proof which we have lived by for over two centuries, and it was met in this case.

Was it lawful to execute Davis? Yes.

Was it just to execute Davis? You could make many strong arguments against the imposition of the death penalty on anyone condemned to death, but there was no basis for making an argument that Davis should be spared because he was innocent.