So Inappropriate

August 27, 2010

Buried amidst the legal documents in Judge William T. Moore’s Troy Davis files is a letter from an ordinary Georgia citizen, a letter Judge Moore apparently asked his clerk to include in the docket.  It says simply:

When so much is contested, the penalty of death seems so inappropriate.

That makes sense to me.

The letter writer correctly observes that Troy Davis’ June evidentiary hearing settled nothing.  Witness testimony was all that was available, and, with no physical or scientific evidence, there was no foolproof way to resolve the conflicting stories and accounts that have been the major feature of this case for 20 years.  As a new Amnesty International short report makes clear, the Troy Davis case remains “less than ironclad”, and to carry out an execution under those circumstances would be a grave injustice.

Troy Davis was unsuccessful in proving his innocence before Judge Moore.  He faced an “extraordinarily high” burden of proof devised by the judge as part of his ruling that executing the innocent would be unconstitutional.  (The judge’s opinion was very long and issued in two parts; it can be found here and here.)   The judge found that “most reasonable jurors” would still vote to convict Davis; but this of course suggests that some reasonable jurors would vote to acquit.  It takes a unanimous jury to pass a death sentence in Georgia.

As the Amnesty report concludes:

Doubt still exists. This should be enough for even a death penalty supporter to oppose the irrevocable step of execution.