"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tearing Down Laws

Some zealots wish that the law could just be ignored when it gets in the way of our desire for what we consider to be justice. Here is an example of how that reckless reasoning works and a response by St. Thomas More to the idea:

This is brought to mind because fresh off his recovery from the vapors over the sight of people lawfully carrying firearms during peaceful protest, Papa Shea, relying on the rantings of a leftist blog, has consigned Justice Antonin Scalia to the flames for the offense of not tearing down all the laws in England to get at the Devil.

Shea's drunk the kool aid for a convicted cop-killer by the name of Troy Davis. Troy Davis shot Savannah, Ga. police officer Mark McPhail in the face and torso as McPhail tried to keep Davis from fleeing the scene of a fight. After the killing Davis changed his shirt and fled to Atlanta. The night prior to killing Officer McPhail, Davis shot a man at a party, wounding him in the jaw. Bullet casings from both shootings were recovered and were found to have been fired by the same gun. Nine (yes, nine) eyewitnesses testified that Davis was the shooter in McPhail's murder. Davis himself admitted being present at the scene, while denying shooting McPhail. He claimed at trial that the witnesses were lying about his involvement, the same claim he is still making years later, a claim rejected by the jury and every court which has considered it.

The jury found Davis guilty of the murder and imposed a death sentence.

Years after the fact, as is common in such cases, teams of defense investigators and anti-death penalty activists have obtained affidavits from seven of the nine witnesses back-tracking from their sworn testimony at trial.

Interestingly, none of the recantations state that Davis did not murder Officer MacPhail; they merely claim now that they were not sure of the shooter's identity. All but one of the “recants” state that the original statements they gave were prepared by the police based upon their oral interviews and that they signed them without reading them. However at trial they testified that these statements were true.

And of course, it remains that two of the original witnesses still positively identify Davis as the killer.

Armed with these convenient recantations, Davis began his appeals, first in the Georgia Supreme Court which found "the evidence supports the conviction on all counts." Davis lodged a habeas corpus petition in state court, alleging in part that there was evidence presented at trial that another person shot McPhail. The state court denied the habeas petition, noting that the jury's role was to resolve conflicting evidence and that their verdict was supported by sufficient evidence.

These state courts considered his claims of actual innocence and rejected them.

Davis next turned to federal court and filed a habeas petition there, again alleging his actual innocence, which petition was also denied, the court finding “that because the submitted affidavits are insufficient to raise doubts as to the constitutionality of the result at trial, there is no danger of a miscarriage of justice in declining to consider the claim.” A federal appeals court affirmed this finding.

Now Davis has convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to direct that a federal District Court hold an evidentiary hearing on his innocence claim. It is this extraordinary and unprecedented procedure that led to Scalia's dissent, which states in part:
This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is "actually" innocent.

It is this out-of context phrase, posted on the leftist blog, that made its way to Papa Shea's notice. And without bothering to read the entire dissent (see how easy that was to find!), or to consider the facts and procedural history of this case, Shea's substantial knee proceeded to jerk, and he raged that Scalia
argues that it is more important to execute the innocent than to stop the System from killing somebody the System has found guilty according to the System.
Never mind that the blurb Shea is all upset about does not remotely say that. Never mind that the dissent no where states or implies that. Truth is not so important when you're throwing mud at the two observant Catholics on the Court (Justice Clarence Thomas joined in Scalia's dissent).

Let's keep it simple: There is not "a pretty good chance the guy is, you know, innocent." The state supreme court considered and rejected the possibility, the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board, which actually took testimony from the recanters, rejected the possibility, and a federal Court of Appeals considered and rejected the possibility. This actual innocence claim has been cooked up by Davis' lawyers with lots of help and publicity from the usual suspects in the anti-death penalty movement. It doesn't hold water.

Which is why Scalia is right for observing that this just a plain old state criminal case with no federal issue requiring more litigation. That Scalia objects to an activist majority on the Court finding any straw to grasp to keep this case from ending is hardly to suggest that he elevates the law above man.

It suggests that he, like most, believes that a fair trial, reviewed carefully on appeal and by the Executive branch of state government, and found to be correct, ought to result in the sentence being carried out.

There is no need to go tearing down the laws, as Shea wants Scalia to do, in order to do justice. "The System" is doing just fine.

Davis has had his day (his years, actually) in court and then some. Now let the jury have their say by letting justice be done at last for Officer McPhail's vicious murder.

1 comment:

dudleysharp said...

Troy Davis: Both sides need to be told
Dudley Sharp, contact info below

Anyone interested in justice will demand a fair, thorough look at both sides of this or any case. Here is the side that the pro Troy Davis faction is, intentionally, not presenting.

(1) Davis v Georgia, Georgia Supreme Court, 3/17/08
Full ruling http://www.gasupreme.us/pdf/s07a1758.pdf
Summary http://www.gasupreme.us/op_summaries/mar_17.pdf

" . . . the majority finds that 'most of the witnesses to the crime who have allegedly recanted have merely stated that they now do not feel able to identify the shooter.' "One of the affidavits 'might actually be read so as to confirm trial testimony that Davis was the shooter.' "

The murder occurred in 1989.

(2) "THE PAROLE BOARD'S CONSIDERATION OF THE TROY ANTHONY DAVIS CASE" , 9/22/08, http://www.pap.state.ga.us/opencms/opencms/

"After an exhaustive review of all available information regarding the Troy Davis case and after considering all possible reasons for granting clemency, the Board has determined that clemency is not warranted."

"The Board has now spent more than a year studying and considering this case. As a part of its proceedings, the Board gave Davis� attorneys an opportunity to present every witness they desired to support their allegation that there is doubt as to Davis� guilt. The Board heard each of these witnesses and questioned them closely. In addition, the Board has studied the voluminous trial transcript, the police investigation report and the initial statements of all witnesses. The Board has also had certain physical evidence retested and Davis interviewed."

(3) A detailed review of the extraordinary consideration that Davis was given for all of his claims,
by Chatham County District Attorney Spencer Lawton http://tinyurl.com/46c73l

Troy Davis' claims are undermined, revealing the dishonesty of the Davis advocates . Look, particularly, at pages 4-7, which show the reasoned, thoughtful and generous reviews of Davis' claims, as well a how despicable the one sided cynical pro Troy Davis effort is.

(4) Officer Mark Allen MacPhail: The family of murdered Officer MacPhail fully believes that Troy Davis murdered their loved one and that the evidence is supportive of that opinion. http://www.markallenmacphail.com/

Not simply an emotional and understandable plea for justice, but a detailed factual review of the case.

(5) "Death and Dying", by Cliff Green, LIKE THE DEW, 7/22/09,