Death Penalty: Justice is served

One of the most grisly crimes I can ever recall is the dragging death of James Byrd in Texas.   It is almost unfathomable that anyone could hate another so much that they would commit such an act.  And the details of that murder are nauseating to even read. From the AP:

It was about 2:30 a.m. on a Sunday, June 7, 1998, when witnesses saw Byrd walking on a road not far from his home in Jasper, a town of
more than 7,000 about 125 miles northeast of Houston. Many folks knew he lived off disability checks, couldn’t afford his own car and walked where he needed to go. Another witness then saw him riding in the bed of a dark pickup.

James Byrd was murdered in 1998 in Texas.

Six hours later and some 10 miles away on Huff Creek Road, the bloody mess found after daybreak was thought at first to be animal road
kill. Rowles, a former Texas state trooper who had taken office as sheriff the previous year, believed it was a hit-and-run fatality but evidence didn’t match up with someone caught beneath a vehicle. Body parts were scattered and the blood trail began with footprints at what appeared to be the scene of a scuffle.

“I didn’t go down that road too far before I knew this was going to be a bad deal,” he said at Brewer’s trial.

Fingerprints taken from the headless torso identified the victim as Byrd.

Testimony showed the three men and Byrd drove out into the county about 10 miles and stopped along an isolated logging road. A fight broke
out and the outnumbered Byrd was tied to the truck bumper with a 24 1/2-foot logging chain. Three miles later, what was left of his shredded remains was dumped between a black church and cemetery where the pavement ended on the remote road.

Lawrence Russell Brewer executed on 9/21/11 for grisly dragging death of James Byrd in Texas

The almost forgotten crime was brought to the forefront last night when white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer was executed for the crime in Texas.  In the end, Brewer got what he deserved and we should all applaud that justice has been served.

Lately, there has been, it seems, plenty of vocal people on the left who oppose the death penalty.   In my view, much of it is political because GOP Presidential candidate, Rick Perry, is the governor of Texas, a well-known death penalty state.

But, I’ve yet to hear or read a single statement that has loudly condemned the Texas execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer.  Why is that?  Is it because the crime is so grisly that in their heart of hearts they know Brewer deserved to be executed?  Is it because of the racial aspect of this murder?  Why?

Troy Davis was executed on 9/21/11 for the killing police officer Mark MacPhail

Ironically, another individual in Georgia was also executed last night.  Troy Davis was executed after years of appeals and clemency denied.  Davis murdered police officer Mark MacPhail in 1991.  Davis’ case caught international attention, particularly when supposed new, but weak, testimony came forward.

Via AP:

Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing MacPhail, who was working as a security guard at the time. MacPhail rushed to the aid of a
homeless man who prosecutors said Davis was bashing with a handgun after asking him for a beer. Prosecutors said Davis had a smirk on his face as he shot the officer to death in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah.

No gun was ever found, but prosecutors say shell casings were linked to an earlier shooting for which Davis was convicted.

Witnesses placed Davis at the crime scene and identified him as the shooter, but several of them have recanted their accounts and some jurors
have said they’ve changed their minds about his guilt. Others have claimed a man who was with Davis that night has told people he actually shot the officer.

(UPDATED – I left this evidence out of original post. —In addition to the shell casings, other physical/witness evidence was found. Most who are politicizing this murder choose to leave these facts out:

1)  Davis’ home was searched after the killing and his shorts with blood were found.  The shorts were not admissible in the court because the court ruled the search was not done as per the rules.
2) MacPhail, before being shot, called in (on his radio, I presume) and stated that he had passed Mr Coles (whom Davis tried to blame for the murder).  MacPhail was shot in the head and chest from the front which makes it impossible for Coles to be the shooter.  In addition, one of the witnesses testified that Davis told him he shot MacPhail in the chest and then again in the head so MacPhail could not identify him.)  End of UPDATE.

It seems that Davis became the poster child for the “no death penalty” push in recent months.   Even though, court after court has denied the appeals made by Davis’s attorneys, the “no death penalty” crowd got louder and louder.  This led Mark Mears, a law professor, to say (H/T: Ace of Spades):

“What’s happened in this case is it has moved out of the courtroom and into the arena of public opinion, and I think that’s always a dangerous arena to try a criminal case, one way or another.”

In the case of Davis, we have a textbook example of the thorough nature of our justice system.  Our system is set up to greatly reduce the risk of an innocent being executed via appeals, commutation, and clemency.  The system is set up to nearly eliminate the possibility of an innocent being put to death.  DNA is a tool that has also greatly reduced the already small risk of doing so.

It is difficult to say that Davis is innocent when the evidence, conviction, and many courts say otherwise.   The system was exhausted for Davis and he was still found to be guilty.  Justice was served in my view.  There was no clear contradictions to his guilty conviction that would lead to his innocence.  He had years to prove it and never did.

And as for those recantations….not quite the clear-cut proof of innocence that the media and Davis supporters would have you believe…as a matter of fact, they did nothing to move in the direction of innocence:

Now the media claim that seven of the nine witnesses against Davis at trial have recanted.

First of all, the state presented 34 witnesses against Davis — not nine — which should give you some idea of how punctilious the media are about their facts in death penalty cases.

Among the witnesses who did not recant a word of their testimony against Davis were three members of the Air Force, who saw the shooting from their van in the Burger King drive-in lane. The airman who saw events clearly enough to positively identify Davis as the shooter explained on cross-examination, “You don’t forget someone that stands over and shoots someone.”

Recanted testimony is the least believable evidence since it proves only that defense lawyers managed to pressure some witnesses to alter their testimony, conveniently after the trial has ended. Even criminal lobbyist Justice William Brennan ridiculed post-trial recantations.

Three recantations were from friends of Davis, making minor or completely unbelievable modifications to their trial testimony. For example, one said he was no longer sure he saw Davis shoot the cop, even though he was five feet away at the time. His remaining testimony still implicated Davis.

One alleged recantation, from the vagrant’s girlfriend (since deceased), wasn’t a recantation at all, but rather reiterated all relevant parts of her trial testimony, which included a direct identification of Davis as the shooter.

Only two of the seven alleged “recantations” (out of 34 witnesses) actually recanted anything of value — and those two affidavits were discounted by the court because Davis refused to allow the affiants to testify at the post-trial evidentiary hearing, even though one was seated right outside the courtroom, waiting to appear.

The court specifically warned Davis that his refusal to call his only two genuinely recanting witnesses would make their affidavits worthless. But Davis still refused to call them — suggesting, as the court said, that their lawyer-drafted affidavits would not have held up under cross-examination.

Case closed.

A bothersome view of this media/Hollywood/opposition/political cabal for supporting a convicted killer — the justified feelings and loss of the victim’s family has been almost completely overlooked by those who have taken up the “no death penalty” cause.  The victim’s mother has now spoken out:

For more than a decade, Annelise MacPhail says she and her family stayed silent about Davis and his efforts to overturn his murder conviction.

She says she is speaking now out to ensure there is justice for her murdered son.

“They make it look like we after blood, but we are not. We are after justice,” Anneliese MacPhail said….

……My son was a young man with a young family,” Anneliese McPhail said. “My  grandson was just seven weeks old, my granddaughter just 24 months. He was just starting his life and he was just doing his job.”

On the day that Troy Davis supporters delivered 600,000 signatures asking that his life be spared to the Georgia parole board, Anneliese MacPhail says she believes her son and his violent murder are being forgotten.

“I’m disgusted. I love to ask them when was the last time one of their sons got shot and killed and murdered,” MacPhail said.

Davis was also convicted of shooting another man that night. His supporters say witnesses have recanted and changed their testimony, but after hearing the new evidence a federal judge last summer said it was not enough to overturn a murder conviction.

MacPhail said she never doubted Davis’ guilt……

……MacPhail says she feels like with all the international attention on Davis and his legal battles, the loss of her son and the pain of her family are being overlooked.

So, unlike the Byrd case above where the victim was rightfully spoken of in the press for years, why has the victim in the MacPhail murder been so overlooked?  And, in contrast to the Byrd case, why is there so much ginned up support for the killer Davis in this case and cries that the death penalty should be stopped?  Did the Davis case become the cause celebre because the victim was a police officer?  Or because Davis is black?  Why?

I ask these questions on the Byrd and MacPhail murders because the positions of the “no death penalty” crowd seem inconsistent and political.   As Reagan once said:

“Theirs (founding fathers) was the vision of a striving, God-fearing, self-reliant PEOPLE LIVING IN THE SUNLIGHT OF JUSTICE and breathing the bracing air of liberty.”

The death penalty is not an issue of a government killing citizens but an issue of justice.  Our legal system is based on that “sunlight of justice”.  So, if justice was served for the killer of Byrd….isn’t the execution of Davis justice served?

The question I have for those so opposed to the death penalty…. If you want to take a stand against morality, life, justice, and age-old lessons on bringing justice, then explain to me how the execution of a vicious murderer DOES NOT bring justice and closure to the families and for the lives of those killed?   Why does the murderer convicted in our fair and thorough justice system deserve to live, unlike the INNOCENTS they chose to kill?

Our system is set up for justice and deterrence.  The stand of eliminating the death penalty accomplishes neither.

Many who oppose the death penalty try to claim that states with the death penalty have more murders than those who don’t.   But it simply isn’t true.  If you look into the rates of murder over time, and consider economics, judicial expenditures, and  education levels, the states with aggressive capital punishment have generally reduced the rates of murder over the last 40 years.  Capital punishment is a deterrent to murder.

From the Innocence Protection Act of 2002, if you take the eight states with the most executions and/or executions per murder, six of those states have seen lower murder rates in the last 40 years. Of those six, by 1999, all of them had lowered their murder rates to below 1960 levels. Four of them went from rates well above the national average to rates well below the national average. I chose one example, there are many defenses of deterrence cited in that Act.

I feel for the families of the victims and the murderers who were executed.    But I don’t believe that the death penalty cases should be politicized and thrashed about in the “court of public opinion” as the Davis case has been.   The system should be allowed to work. I think a commenter at Ace of Spades pretty much sums up the opposition to Davis execution:

The fact is, these people are working from the premise that the death penalty is wrong. That’s the default position, so anything that throws aspects of the case into doubt automatically confirms their beliefs.
Is any death penalty case slam-dunk? No.


9 Responses

  1. First, as a Black man, I abhor that Brewer was murdered by the state for his heinous racist crime. I’m anti-death penalty proponent, regardless of the crime. So if you haven’t heard any anti-death penalty people decrying his murder, it’s probably because you don’t listen well enough in the first place.

    Second, I have a serious question for you about the death penalty. But first a comment about the Davis case: besides the recanting of testimony, which you did discuss in your post, there was scant physical evidence to link Davis to his crime. Why didn’t you mention THAT lack of evidence?

    But here’s my question: can you tell me what is another SECULAR reasoning for supporting the death penalty, besides that it putatively lowers the murder rate? (Which has nationally been going down across the board for the last 10 years anyway. New York state has a death penalty w/ no murders and it’s rates have gone down too. So your argument, on that level, is specious…at best.) No conservative I’ve talked to online has been able to adequately answer me w/o invoking scripture or something comparable. Thanks.

  2. This is the big lie from AP:

    “but prosecutors say shell casings were linked to an earlier shooting for which Davis was convicted.”

    I’s not only prosecutors who say this, it’s the jurors who believed it, the defense attorneys who could not refute it, and the judges at every appeal level who determined it was (1) admissible and (2) true!

    They also disguise behind the prosecutors “say” the fact that he was convicted by a different jury of his peers…

    God will forgive him; the State of Georgia in its Judiciary has the right to (1) punish him and (2) not forget!

  3. Samuel,
    I applaud you for being consistent on your position, unlike our media and many who wish to politicize the death penalty, which was done in the Davis case.

    I heard one of Davis attorneys on the news this morning accusing the state and anyone else of racism, lynching, etc. for carrying out his justice. That same attorney and the media will never tell you these facts:
    There were 7 blacks and 5 whites on jury.
    Most, if not all, of the witnesses were black.
    Davis shot a black man earlier in the evening.

    I bring this up as an example of what you WON’T hear in the news nor from that attorney trying to drum up racism….ie politicizing this case rather than keeping it in the courts.

    There was physical evidence in the Davis case. The casings of the bullets were a match to the casings used in a shooting earlier in the evening — a shooting for which Davis was also convicted.

    In addition, there are two factors that most politicizing this murder choose to leave out: (which I also did in my post above by mistake). And remember this case went on for 20 years…there was ample evidence when this case was first tried.
    1) Davis’ home was searched after the killing and his shorts with blood were found. The shorts were not admissible in the court because the court ruled the search was not done as per the rules.
    2) MacPhail, before being shot, called in (on his radio, I presume) and stated that he had passed Mr Coles (whom Davis tried to blame for the murder). MacPhail was shot in the head and chest from the front which makes it impossible for Coles to be the shooter. In addition, one of the witnesses testified that Davis told him he shot MacPhail in the chest and then again in the head so MacPhail could not identify him.

    In addition, there were 34 witnesses…testimony came from many that Davis was the shooter. Particularly compelling is the 3 Air Force airmen who were quite sure of who they saw shoot MacPhail.
    Only TWO witnesses materially changed their testimony after the fact. The media and the anti-execution cabal have led America to believe that multiple witnesses recanted.

    As far as justification for the death penalty, it is meant for justice for the cruelest of killers and as a deterrent. Since much of our legal system, and arguably our culture, is based upon the morality/laws of the Bible, justifications for implementing justice in our system originate from a combination of secular and religious/moral basis..

  4. Samuel,
    In addition, if you have any news articles or clips of someone that is decrying the execution of Brewer as vehemently as Davis, I’d like to see it.

  5. Boria,
    That’s a good catch on that statement. I didn’t notice how that was worded in the news. Exactly right….it was not just presumption on the part of the prosecution that the casings were a match.

  6. Samuel:

    One of the reasons the murder rate is going down in New York is because people are leaving New York…

    Caesar (the state) has the right to levy retributive justice.

    I’ll leave it to God to forgive!

  7. I didn’t say anything about the charge of racism, though many have. I’ve just made it clear that I abhor the death penalty, whether a racist dies or someone of my same race.

    I will look more into the facts of the case as you’ve described them. Thank you for that. Seriously. I wouldn’t be foolish enough to counter facts that I don’t know.

    What I do know is that our laws or morality are based on many tributaries and notions of order, including Shariah law. More here:

    With that said, there’s so much of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic influence that’s still in our culture and much of it that isn’t as it’s inapplicable. Likewise, it’s fair to question what stays and what doesn’t. For instance, if we’re talking about the old testament scriptures that most death penalty proponents cite, then are we also going to use the strict strictures that’s also in the Bible for adultery and eating pork? Or wearing men’s clothing? Again, as someone who believes in keeping his religion separate from public policy, I don’t understand why some things are included and others are not. Doesn’t make sense.

    Boria, migrations are common and have been for the last 40 years. So, again, I think it’s fair to say that there is some other factor that accounts for the change in crime and not the death penalty itself. It’s very simple to figure out what it is though. It’s policing itself that’s shifted. See “Broken Window” theory of policing that has surfaced in the last 30 years. We’ve also seen a high growth in prison populations with notorious disparities between crimes and races, like the Rockefeller laws. So chalking up the death penalty as the reason for the dip is wishful thinking at best. No one has ever proven that the death penalty deters crime. It seems that the only thing that deters crime is monitoring the quality of life closely and helping citizens to ensure the quality of life. The punishments haven’t seemed to matter that much at all.

  8. Return to the Source = Samuel, right?

    I respectfully refuse to lump Judaism and Christianity with Islam. We do not have the same God, etc…

    The quickest descriptor I can give you is:

    Mohammed plundered, raped, conquered, and killed and Islam was born some 600 years AD.

    Jesus died on the cross and Christianity was born

    We cannot be related in the Judeo-Christian God.

    The Broken Window really effort took off with Major Giuliani in NY City though it’s been around since 1985 at a smaller scale…

    I do not disagree with you that blacks are treated differently than whites in the punishment phase of the judicial system. It’s partially related to poor people who cannot afford good lawyers, the cocaine vs crack controversy is another example…

    Having acknowledged that, most crime is black on black with many many origins: Lack of jobs, 70% illegitimacy rate, etc…

    By the way, I’m a great fan of Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. Both make the point that prior to the new deal, the great society, minimum wage laws, and prevailing wage laws (to counter contractors who were cheaper because of their black labor) black unemployment and black illegitimacy rates were lower than for whites. Not many do-gooder programs have the intended effect.

    Unfortunately, blacks who vote democrat are like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving…

  9. […] the ‘I am Troy Davis’ crowd Posted on September 25, 2011 by sharprightturn I wrote about the Troy Davis and Lawrence Russell Brewer executions last week.  I touched on the trial by “public opinion” that was attempted in the Troy Davis case […]

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