The death penalty: How close, how far


The Chronicle didn't even put the news on the front page (although The New York Times did), but the execution of Troy Davis went forward more or less as scheduled Sept. 21, with news media around the world watching. It was a shameful miscarriage of justice; as the Times noted in an editorial:

Seven of nine witnesses against Mr. Davis recanted after trial. Six said the police threatened them if they did not identify Mr. Davis. The man who first told the police that Mr. Davis was the shooter later confessed to the crime. There are other reasons to doubt Mr. Davis’s guilt: There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime introduced at trial, and new ballistics evidence broke the link between him and a previous shooting that provided the motive for his conviction.

Yes the Georgia courts, and the federal courts, and the United States Supreme Court, let the state kill Davis -- and now it's too late to prove his innocence. That, of course, is the most horrible aspect of the death penalty. It's also cruel, expensive and pointless.

But there's a bit of good news, at least in California. I'm convinced that sentiment is changing. We've been interviewing candidates for San Francisco sheriff and district attorney over the past two weeks -- and I can tell you, while San Francisco isn't a good reflection of the state as a whole, attitudes among law-enforcement types in this town have changed pretty dramatically over the past ten years or so.

In 1999, Matt Gonzalez, Bill Fazion and Terence Hallinan all ran for district attorney, and Gonzales came in third. Fazio -- a veteran prosecutor and tough-on-crime type, went to Gonzalez and sought his endorsment in the runoff. Gonzalez said he'd support him -- if Fazio would agree never to seek the death penalty. It was a pretty easy call, since no San Francisco jury is ever going to vote for capital punishment anyway -- but Fazio refused. He insisted that he was a death-penalty supporter to the end, and he lost the race.

Now, Fazio says the death penalty is a complete failure, and he would not only never seek it but he's actively in favor of repealing it.

Just a few months ago, former police chief and current D.A. George Gascon was talking about how the death penatly ought to be one of a prosecutor's tools -- but now he utterly disavows is, says he would never seek it and is calling for repeal.

Chris Cunnie, a former president of the avowedly pro-death-penalty Police Officers Association, told us he opposes capital punishment.

And Kamala Harris, who never wavered in her refusal to seek the death penalty, even for the killing of a cop, managed to get elected attorney general of California.

So there's hope.




I guess it's progress when even the right wing politicians have to hide their true beliefs in order to get elected in this town.

Just don't make the mistake of actually believing them!

The Davis execution was such a travesty of justice. One has to wonder about the officials who let this execution go forward, and even the family of the victim. Do they not care that the real murderer is walking around scot free? Or will any black man do in the quest for vengeance?

What moral authority does this country have, when we execute the innocent?

Posted by Greg on Sep. 22, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

I agree with Steven Lendmen who blogged that "there's nothing just about state-sponsored murder, especially against falsely accused victims."(
He also said that a Georgia law professor had reviewed Troy's case and found no justification for capital punishment.

I was moved by what NAACP President Benjamin Jealous had to say about Troy's life and about the death penalty (

"And those of us who knew Troy Davis, who sat with him, who talked to him, know that he was somebody who was full of love, full of love for his family, full of love for humanity, full of love for a movement that he was born into, a movement for civil and human rights in this country, somebody who said, 'This movement started before I died. No matter what happens on the 21st, it must grow stronger.'"

"We’re now within 10 states of abolishing the death penalty in this country. We just have to get to 26, before it will not just be found to be cruel, as it has in the past—this is the Supreme Court—but we can also prove it is unusual. And we’ve abolished it in three states in the last two years. And we have to move forward with the spirit of Troy Davis. You know, he said that "They may take my body, but they’ll never take my spirit, because I gave my spirit to God." But we certainly cannot allow this to take our spirit, either."

"This has to be a night when we defiantly recommit ourselves to the nonviolent struggle for justice in this country, and we commit ourselves not just to abolishing the death penalty in our lifetime or in this century, but in this decade. And we can do it if we’re focused. There’s states like Connecticut and Maryland where we’ve come very close recently. We need to push harder. There are other states where we think we could even break through ... Push harder by organizing smarter, by doing what Dr. King admonished us to do, and actually organizing coalitions that are uncomfortably large."

Posted by Lisa on Sep. 22, 2011 @ 4:57 pm
Posted by meatlock on Sep. 23, 2011 @ 3:10 am
Posted by Guest on Sep. 23, 2011 @ 6:48 am

and Troy Davis should have some interesting conversations in Hell.

Posted by Chromefields on Sep. 23, 2011 @ 10:11 am