Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Proceedural Question

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles will not be staying the execution of Troy Davis. I'm not up to date on the case, so I'm not real comfortable making a judgement. What I do know is that the record of American states putting the right folks on death row isn't exactly spotless right now. Especially in the South. Credibility is the most important thing when it comes to a state decision to execute. Especially in the South.

Yeah, I said it twice. And I'm being generous.

But a part of that article got me wondering:

The board released its decision just after 8 a.m., after spending an entire day hearing from Davis' supporters and then prosecutors and MacPhail's relatives.


Davis' supporters? What were they, activists? Experts? Defense attorneys? Friends? Family? Supporters are a group of folks I generally associate with individuals outside the proceedings, writing letters and holding vigils. The choice of words here is suspect, since prosecutors also got to talk. Which group has a more credible case, based on what they are called in the media?

And then, the victim's family gets to speak? I can only assume this is normal proceedure, and that the disconnect belongs to me. The defense has already failed to establish doubt in court and on appeal, and this proceeding is simply determining the severity of the punishment. Something gets to me, however, when emotional testimony can be entered into the record during the final proceeding to determine whether the state should end a human being's life. This isn't the convicted party begging for mercy, this is questioning the finality of the case against him.

And you have to wonder how much closure the victim's family will actually get with irreversible justice meted out by a system with straining credibility.

Again, I'm not as familiar with the court case as I ought be to make such pronouncements, but you'd think if there was more physical evidence required to get an execution punishment (as opposed to changing witness testimony and plea deals), the system might find itself with far fewer cases presenting so much doubt in the minds of the public. As a death penalty supporter, I am constantly shocked at the number of execution sentences meted out that are later open to so much question and reversal. While it doesn't shake my faith in irreversible justice being on the table, it makes me think it is employed too often as a punishment in inappropriate cases.

Because this is the death penalty we're talking about. There should be no reasonably raised questions regarding guilt, and the case should not hinge only on someone's malleable or self-interested testimony.

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8 comments:

patsbrother said...

This is not directly on point, but it needs to be said.

Lemme get this straight. You WANT a person who accuses someone else of raping them to be called a victim by the judge in court in front of the jury before the accused is convicted (as per our previous argument), but you get upset when someone treats victims as victims after a jury has found someone guilty and after more appeals than are legally available fail to reverse his conviction?

At a certain point, you are too much. All your disconnect ARE belong to you.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Umm, no, I would call individuals in both instances "victims" because a crime has been committed against them. The guilt or innocence of the accused does not negate their status as victims of a crime. That's the point.

There is no question that someone shot and killed the officer in Savannah. He and his family are victims of a crime and nothing will change that. There is no question that they are suffering from a loss.

At question is who actually killed him, and at stake is the possibility that someone who did not commit the crime will be punished for it. Our system should have a higher standard, and that should be the issue of the Board.

I would consider the situation differently if there was even a small bit of physical evidence linking the convicted with the crime. If there was physical evidence, and the convicted was begging the court for mercy, than I can see emotional testimony from the victims of the crime coming into play.

But this case appears to turn on jailhouse snitches, reversed eyewitness testimony, and witnesses who underwent long and drawn out police interrogation.

At question in the hearing should be the system itself, ready to shoulder the responsibility of taking a life without the burden of physical evidence. I have a problem with that standard, and I have a problem with the system that sets it up this way.

I also have a concern that the victim's family is advocating someone, anyone, be punished for the crime that victimized them. My heart breaks for them, but in the absence of overwhelming physical evidence, their emotional pain does not give them a right to demand that someone else's life be extinguished.

But instead of serving the higher purposes of justice, it appears the Board has instead hidden behind the grief of the victims, an assumption that a demonstrably fallible system is infallible, and the politics that corrupt justice in this nation.

patsbrother said...

First, in our last "victim" argument, we faced the question whether someone should be called a victim by the judge to the jury before the state has even proven a crime has been committed. People do claim they have been raped when they haven't. Your position is asinine and wrong, and probably will get someone wrongly convicted, but you don't care.

Second, the Board, as you pointed out, does not consider innocence or guilt but, under a presumpion of guilt (his conviction being final and all), whether he merits lesser punishment than the sentence set by those who were present at his trial. At such hearing, people can talk about all the good things (or bad things) he has done in prison and what he means to those who love him. Conversely, those who were affected by his crime (again, this is not a hearing to determine guilt or innocence) get to talk about what they have lost, so it is not a one-sided affair.

Often I can make no sense of your ramblings. Like that Creation Story class you came up with so long ago for no better reason than appeasing the people who figured most prominently in the news at just that moment, your conclusions appear to be divorced from actual context and without consistency.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Let us go over this again: when an individual says they have been raped, the system must take that claim seriously. In order for that claim to be taken seriously, they system must assume that a crime has taken place until proven otherwise.

Identifying someone who claims to have been the victim of a crime as "the victim" and beginning the process by accepting that a crime has happened is not mutually exclusive of the presumption of innocence on the part of the accused.

I do not know why in the world you have such trouble with this, as your position seems to accept "accusation = guilt" which is a dangerous place for our system to be.

Every day in this country, there are thousands of crimes, and there are thousands of accusations. All of the victims are identified as victims (of theft, vandalism, murder, assault, etc) even while the individuals they accuse of these crimes (if any) are considered innocent in the eyes of the law (at least theoretically).

Wrongful convictions have less to do with that terminology and more to do with the system pressing ahead with cases when they lack physical evidence. Wrongful convictions are far more likely to involve incorrect eyewitness testimony, prosecutorial assumptions and theories, and manufactured confessions than they are with physical evidence.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

The Board does not need to consider guilt or innocence in this instance. The question before the Board should be (if it isn't) if there is some compelling case to be made for delaying the execution.

Lack of physical evidence in a death penalty trial, and the ridiculous standard that was placed upon the defense during the appeals process should be enough to warrant a delay.

This is not someone claiming they have reformed or found God in prison after physical evidence linked them to a heinous crime, nor is this someone claiming that a mental deficiency releases him from responsibility for his crime. In this instance, the very standards of the system that decided to hand down a sentence of execution with no physical evidence, and then propose impossible grounds for appealing his case are being brought into question.

I absolutely believe the death penalty should be an option in the criminal justice system, the caveat being that the standard of evidence required to apply such a sentence should be very high, involving procedures that are above reproach.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Like that Creation Story class you came up with so long ago

Ah, this again. I do so tire of hearing this old thing being trotted out again and again. I clarified and articulated and have kept a running record on this website my views over the years. I did not know everything when I started writing, and I freely admitted as such. I do not know everything now.

But I do know that my evolution of knowledge is documented in the thousands of pages archived on this weblog.

I have attempted through links (which you don't ever appear to ever read) to expert opinions (that you never seem to entertain), by employing tags on each post, and continual citations of former and current opinions I have held, to consistently justify, challenge, and augment my own beliefs. I strive to avoid epistemological closure that brings about cognitive dissonance.

You, on the other hand, consistently bring up one throw away idea I had in 2005(?) as some sort of evidence that I am not a credible writer. All this despite the fact that such an idea, nascent and ill articulated as it originally was, upon further examination in the fields of interdisciplinary education, critical thinking, religious literacy and science education, isn't actually so far away from valuable philosophical & mental exercise.

But we can rehash that idea whenever you go back through the archives, and get the link to that.

Right now, we're talking about a criminal justice system executing a man based on recanted witness testimony and emotional loss on the part of the victim's family.

patsbrother said...

I hope I never appear before a judge as ignorant as you.

There is not, and should not, be a presumption of a crime just because someone said it happened. Your position on that issue is wildly inappropriate.

P.S. I did not gratuitously bring up the Creation Story class, and it was not to impugn your writing ability, but your thinking. And in case you have reverted back (as it almost appears), I will reiterate that the theory of evolution is not a creation story.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

There is not, and should not, be a presumption of a crime just because someone said it happened.

Oh? Well, I guess that's why they don't pick up when people call 911 in New Orleans, hunh? They aren't presuming a crime just because someone said it happened, so why should they bother to send the emergency personnel unless they have some bit of proof?