UK Telegraph: The shallow anti-Americanism of the ‘I am Troy Davis’ crowd

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 and the hypocrisy of the anti-death penalty crowd who only had room for “I am Troy Davis” T-shirts but no words about the death of Lawrence Russell Brewer.

Today, an article in the UK Telegraph sums up nicely the shallow and politicized efforts of those who tried to “save” Troy Davis based on no new evidence and picking and choosing the facts of the 20-year-old case.

There are few subjects that provoke as much smug condescension and shallow anti-Americanism as the death penalty in the United States. And the “debate” over the execution in Georgia last Wednesday of Troy Davis, 42, convicted of the 1989 murder of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer, marked a new low.

The sheer emotionalism and partisanship of much of the coverage of the case in Britain was an embarrassment. On virtually no other subject could you find facts presented so selectively, conclusions so sweeping and reasoning so simplistic.

American campaigners against the death penalty know the buttons to press. Thus, we have statements like that from Thomas Ruffin, a lawyer for Davis, who said that Georgia had “legally lynched a brave, a good and indeed, an innocent man”.

We saw “I am Troy Davis” T-shirts being worn as far afield as London, the message being that Davis was somehow plucked randomly from the streets and arbitrarily condemned, perhaps because he was black.

Unfortunately, little about the Davis case fits this naïve picture. A jury of seven blacks and five whites found that Davis, who had a street name of “Rah”, standing for “Rough As Hell”, had been pistol-whipping a homeless man in a Burger King car park and had shot MacPhail dead when he intervened.

And this article makes clear that racism was not a part of Troy Davis’ execution…as a matter of fact, all legal efforts were attempted (including recanting witnesses that the defense would not call) that further validated his guilt:

Judge Moore concluded in his 174-page ruling that the “fresh” evidence Davis had gathered amounted to little more than “smoke and mirrors” and the “vast majority of the evidence at trial remains intact”.

Indeed, a reading of his judgement indicates that by not calling two of its recantation witnesses (one was waiting in the courthouse to testify and the other, the homeless man who was beaten, was readily available), the Davis defence team was preserving something they knew would damage his case in court if tested but if left intact could be of publicity value. There has never been a scintilla of evidence that Davis’s race has ever been a factor in his initial conviction or in it being upheld.

The current Supreme Court contains four liberal judges, none of whom issued a dissent in the Davis case. Two of them were appointed by Mr Obama who, incidentally, supports the death penalty himself and declined to make any statement about the execution. Another justice, Clarence Thomas, is a black man from Georgia.

Read the whole article here.


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.