USA: ‘Where is the justice for me?’: The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia

February 1, 2007

USA: ‘Where is the justice for me?’: The case of Troy Davis, facing execution in Georgia

(56) "The death sentence must, in some measure, manifest a philosophy of indefensible despair in its execution, accepting as it must do, that the offender it seeks to punish is so beyond the pale of humanity as to permit of no rehabilitation, no reform, no repentance, no inherent spectre of hope or spirituality; nor the slightest possibility that he might one day, successfully and deservedly be able to pursue and to enjoy the great rights of dignity and security and the fundamental freedoms protected in… the Constitution, the exercise of which is possible only if the ‘right to life’ is not destroyed. The finality of the death penalty allows for none of these redeeming possibilities. It annihilates the potential for their emergence." The State v. T. Makwanyane and M. Mchunu, Constitutional Court of the Republic of South Africa, 6 June 1995, Mahomed, J., concurring. In any event, an execution ios incompatible with the requirement to respect human dignity that lies at the heart of international human rights law and which the US Supreme Court says underlies the US constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual" punishments. "The basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man." Trop v. Dulles (1958).

(57) E.g. Learie Leo Alford (sentence commuted 1979, Florida); Jesse Rutledge (1983, Florida); Doris Ann Foster (1987, Maryland); Ronald Monroe (1989, Louisiana); Joseph Giarratano (1991, Virginia); Herbert Bassette (1992, Virginia); Anson Avery Maynard (1992, North Carolina); Earl Washington (1994, Virginia); Joseph Payne (1996, Virginia); Donald Paradis (1996, Indiana); David Chandler (2001, Federal); Phillip Dewitt Smith (2001, Oklahoma); Aaron Patterson, Madison Hobley, Leroy Orange and Stanley Howard (2003, Illinois – all four pardoned by the governor). For further information, see

(58) Radelet, M.L. and Zsembik, B.A., Executive clemency in post-Furman capital cases. University of Richmond Law Review, Volume 27, pages 289 to 314 (1993).

(59) Letter from Charles R. McGrath, Judge, Chambers of the Superior Court, Ventura, California, dated 25 January 2006, available at In the event, Michael Morales execution was stayed, and in December 2006, his case led to a suspension of executions in California due to a District Court’s finding of serious problems with the state’s lethal injection protocols. See, USA: New Year’s resolution: End a cruel and outdated punishment, AI Index: AMR 51/205/2006, 21 December 2006,

(60) Reasonable Doubt: Is death row immune to DNA exonerations? Dallas Morning News, 10 January 2007.

(61) Page 19, report available at

(62) Charles Hill (1977), Freddie Davis (1988), Harold Williams (1991), on the grounds that the death sentence was disproportional to the sentence given to his equally or more culpable co-defendant; William Moore (1990), reportedly on the grounds of his good conduct in prison, his remorse, his religious conversion, and the pleas for clemency from the victim’s family; Alexander Williams (2002), on the grounds of his mental illness; Willie James Hall (2004) – six jurors had testified that they would have chosen life without parole had it been an option at the trial. Hall’s good conduct in prison and no criminal record prior to the murder was also reported to be a factor in the board’s decision.