The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Murder by the State | Murtaza Hussain

Executions are not an extraordinary occurrence in the United States, [Troy] Davis was the 36th person to be executed this year and the 1267th since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976. It is an accepted part of the legal system that the state has the power of life and death over its citizens, and the exercise of that power is relatively regular and mundane. It is worth nothing that this power is exercised even more liberally over individuals whom the state does not [have] jurisdiction over, as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan citizens have come to find out through no culpability of their own.

What was interesting in the outcry over Troy Davis’ execution was the reaction of many individuals to his death. Prospect of his innocence aside, there was a general revulsion and feeling that “something had changed” in the country that allowed such an act of devastating, methodical violence to occur. How could the government, that benevolent if sometimes confused entity which safeguards both freedom and order allow such an event to occur? How could they have had such a callous and relaxed attitude towards the taking of a life? It is good that people ask these questions (although sadly it seems as though the issue is already being drowned out in the hyperactive noise machine which is the popular media). The reality is that the manner in which Troy Davis’ life was taken, one which did not respect life by taking it only in the absence of doubt of innocence, is the modus operandi for the state in how it operates across the world.

“We think its worth it.” is how Madeleine Albright characterized the deaths of an estimated 500,000+ Iraqi children from sanctions when the question was posed to her. The destruction of huge amounts of life, undoubtedly innocent life; the life of children, justified and executed by government technocrats with the same clinical detachment as those who inserted the needle into Troy Davis’ right arm. His execution could only have been shocking to a person who is completely oblivious to how the government operates in their name, without their specific consent or often, knowledge. As much of a miscarriage of justice Davis’ case appeared to have been, he had still been granted the right to some sort of trial and hearing however flawed and inconclusive. On a daily basis people are killed by the state in a way not dissimilar to Mr. Davis, but without even the pretext of a judicial process respecting the sanctity of their life. “Suspected militants” are murdered every day in faraway places just as “suspected cop-killers” are murdered at home; just as much people, just as potentially innocent as Troy Davis may likely have been. Don’t forget about Troy Davis, remember who killed him and scrutinize his murderer as closely as you would scrutinize one who lives on your block. Nothing is new or innovative here; this is standard operating procedure. When you go off fighting monsters you inevitably become one, whether you are taking lives at home or abroad. If his death affected you in any way, please fight to honour his passing by circumscribing the ability of the state to destroy life; and stop it from creating millions more Troy Davis’ in every corner of the world.

Obama asks for stay of execution in Texas

sarahlee310:

blackacrylic:

For all you clowns who justified Obama’s silence over the execution of Troy Davis:

President Obama is asking the Supreme Court to stay tomorrow’s planned execution of a Mexican citizen in Texas, arguing it could do “irreparable harm” to U.S. interests abroad.

In 1994, Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death. Few are contesting his guilt, but an omission in the handling of his case may make things tough for American citizens arrested abroad: Leal wasn’t told that he could contact the Mexican Consulate.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a treaty that includes 170 countries, says a foreigner who is arrested must be allowed access to her home country’s consulate. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that U.S. states’ sentencing of 54 Mexican citizens to death without allowing them to contact the Mexican Consulate was a violation of the treaty. Then-president George W. Bush ordered Texas to review its policies, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that neither Texas nor any U.S. state could be held to an international treaty unless Congress passed a law binding them to it.

Now, President Obama is asking the Supreme Court to stay the execution until Congress passes such legislation, which was recently introduced in the Senate. The administration says the execution would do “irreparable harm” to U.S. interests abroad.

(via Yahoo)

Foreign relations are involved in this one, which is why the executive branch can have a say, though at this point he is asking the court to take that into consideration, not acting himself.  

(Source: blackacrylic)

Some clarification on my most popular Tumblr post ever.

Last night I put up a post that had no music, no video, no photos, cartoons or images; not even any text - and yet, it received more attention than any post I’ve created on tumblr.

The content of the post (a quote post) was this:

 ”…”

I attributed the quote, Barack Obama on Troy Davis.

Immediately (and to my surprise - my blog rarely garners any attention, much less commentary), the quote was reblogged and liked and reblogged some more. Then I started getting messages in my inbox and some of the reblogs added commentary. The majority of the messages and commentary were negative and implied some lack of knowledge on my part as to the separation of powers, the limits of presidential power over state judicial decisions, and government in general. There were suggestions that I go take a remedial government course, get my head out of my ass, fuck off and die, stop expecting the president to be a superman, and on and on.

This post was never meant to imply that Barack Obama could have or even should have pardoned or halted the execution of Troy Davis. What it was meant to convey was my disappointment with the President’s public (and deafening) silence on this issue. Nothing more, nothing less.

Would a few words on the issue from our president have changed the outcome? No. But again, that wasn’t my point. In one of the most widely publicized and protested (not to mention, dubious) capital punishment cases to come around in the U.S. in quite a while, a few words from the president to show that he was a man of principle, a man who understood that justice was not being served in this case, or even a vow to revisit the issue of whether or not the punishment of death can be applied fairly in a court of law would have provided comfort and support to the millions who spoke out around the world and showed solidarity with Troy Davis.

Whether or not this would have been prudent for a sitting president, I don’t know. What I do know is this: Obama’s silence was politically expedient and politically safe - like nearly everything he does.

Three dots.

The Needle and the Damage Done | Paul Campos

[This] Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent. - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

From Lawyers, Guns and Money:

As I have argued elsewhere, [Antonin] Scalia represents an extreme example of a certain kind of judge that positively revels in coming to conclusions that are morally revolting but “legally” sound. Judges of this type like these sorts of cases because they demonstrate that law is a supposedly nonpolitical and intellectually rigorous practice, rather than a touchy-feely exercise in doing what strikes the judge as the right thing.

What, after all, could be more nonpolitical and intellectually rigorous than executing an innocent man, simply because “the law” requires that result? In a perverse way, such bloody logic is a kind of advertisement for the supposed objectivity of the legal system, since we can assume that no sane decision maker would reach such a decision voluntarily. (The great legal historian Douglas Hay explained the 18th-century English practice of sometimes acquitting obviously guilty men on absurd procedural technicalities, such as incorrectly calling the defendant a “farmer” instead of a “yeoman,” in similar terms: “When the ruling class acquitted men on such technicalities they helped embody a belief in the disembodied justice of the law in the minds of all who watched. In short the law’s absurd formalism was part of its strength as ideology.”)

“The law’s absurd formalism was part of its strength as ideology.” Precisely. This insight applies to many more aspects of the legal system than the revolting spectacle of our contemporary system of capital punishment, which in a case such as Davis’s — which is not in this respect was not unusual — psychologically tortures the defendant, the defendant’s family, the victim’s family, and others connected to the case for literally decades before producing what the system then has the temerity to call “justice.” (The climax of this spectacle last night involved Davis being strapped to a gurney with a needle in his arm for nearly four hours, waiting for various legal personages to respond to the question of whether, all things considered, it was finally time to stop his heart with state-administered poison).

That we tolerate this kind of thing so readily helps explain, in its own way, why it sometimes seems impossible to do much of anything about the absurdities and dysfunctions of the system of legal education that legitimates it in the first instance. Or perhaps it’s the other way around: perhaps we tolerate the absurdity of something like the 22-year “process” that resulted in the horror of Davis’s final hours because we ‘re socialized from the beginning of our careers in this system to accept all kinds of absurdity and injustice as natural, inevitable, and therefore legitimate.

The Death Penalty: Why We Fight for Equal Justice | The Atlantic
A relevant, must read for today from Andrew Cohen:

I don’t want to meet Duane Buck. I don’t consider him any sort of  a victim on a par with the victims whose lives he took and altered in  1995. And I certainly don’t want him released from prison. But that  doesn’t mean I have to happily accept the fact that Texas now has  screwed him over, not once, but twice. If we are to continue to pride  ourselves on being a nation of laws, if the individual guarantees of the  Bill of Rights are to continue to mean anything against the tyranny of  the majority, even men like Buck have to be sentenced fairly in capital  cases, without the ancient specter of racism further inflaming a  southern jury’s work. We don’t just owe Buck that. We owe that to ourselves.
The unseemliness of this dichotomy — not so much that any man’s death diminishes us but rather that we all lose when we allow our justice system to be  perverted by passions, prejudice, and politics — is what I believe has  soured so many Supreme Court justices to the idea of capital punishment.  It’s part of what Justice Harry Blackmun meant in 1994 in Callins v. Collins, a case about the death penalty in Texas, when he declared that he would  “no longer tinker with the machinery of death.” The rest of that  sentence is instructive as well:

From  this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.  For more than 20 years I have endeavored…to develop…rules that would  lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty  endeavor…Rather than continue to coddle the court’s delusion that the  desired level of fairness has been achieved…I feel…obligated simply to  concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually  self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or  substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its  inherent constitutional deficiencies…

And it’s not  just Blackmun who turned. So did Justice Lewis Powell, the so-called  great “centrist” of the Court who died in 1998. He told his biographer,  understandably since it’s a black mark on his career, that he regretted his vote in 1987 in McClesky v. Kemp in which the Supreme Court allowed a capital conviction in Georgia to stand despite empirical evidence that showed harsh racial disparities in the way the state administered  capital punishment cases. Too little, too late, for Justice Powell. He  might have altered the course of capital penalty jurisprudence. There  are no such regrets for Justice John Paul Stevens, another Republican  appointee to the High Court, who turned late in his long and  distinguished career on the bench against the “machinery of death.” 
After retiring from the bench in 2009, moreover, Justice Stevens wrote a powerful essay in The New York Review of Books in which he chronicled some of the substantive and procedural inequalities that have cropped up in death penalty jurisprudence since Gregg.  “The dynamic supporting a broader application of the death penalty,”  Justice Stevens wrote just recently, ”is revealed in cases involving  victim-impact statements, felony-murder, controversy over attitudes  toward the death penalty in jury selection, and race-based prosecutorial  decisions.” It has to say something profound, does it not, that each of  these men, none the least shrill zealots in their judicial views, would  feel such remorse and regret over their roles in bringing the death  penalty back to America. To me, it says they didn’t get from the states  what they thought they were bargaining for.

The Death Penalty: Why We Fight for Equal Justice | The Atlantic

A relevant, must read for today from Andrew Cohen:

I don’t want to meet Duane Buck. I don’t consider him any sort of a victim on a par with the victims whose lives he took and altered in 1995. And I certainly don’t want him released from prison. But that doesn’t mean I have to happily accept the fact that Texas now has screwed him over, not once, but twice. If we are to continue to pride ourselves on being a nation of laws, if the individual guarantees of the Bill of Rights are to continue to mean anything against the tyranny of the majority, even men like Buck have to be sentenced fairly in capital cases, without the ancient specter of racism further inflaming a southern jury’s work. We don’t just owe Buck that. We owe that to ourselves.

The unseemliness of this dichotomy — not so much that any man’s death diminishes us but rather that we all lose when we allow our justice system to be perverted by passions, prejudice, and politics — is what I believe has soured so many Supreme Court justices to the idea of capital punishment. It’s part of what Justice Harry Blackmun meant in 1994 in Callins v. Collins, a case about the death penalty in Texas, when he declared that he would “no longer tinker with the machinery of death.” The rest of that sentence is instructive as well:

From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored…to develop…rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor…Rather than continue to coddle the court’s delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved…I feel…obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies…

And it’s not just Blackmun who turned. So did Justice Lewis Powell, the so-called great “centrist” of the Court who died in 1998. He told his biographer, understandably since it’s a black mark on his career, that he regretted his vote in 1987 in McClesky v. Kemp in which the Supreme Court allowed a capital conviction in Georgia to stand despite empirical evidence that showed harsh racial disparities in the way the state administered capital punishment cases. Too little, too late, for Justice Powell. He might have altered the course of capital penalty jurisprudence. There are no such regrets for Justice John Paul Stevens, another Republican appointee to the High Court, who turned late in his long and distinguished career on the bench against the “machinery of death.” 

After retiring from the bench in 2009, moreover, Justice Stevens wrote a powerful essay in The New York Review of Books in which he chronicled some of the substantive and procedural inequalities that have cropped up in death penalty jurisprudence since Gregg. “The dynamic supporting a broader application of the death penalty,” Justice Stevens wrote just recently, ”is revealed in cases involving victim-impact statements, felony-murder, controversy over attitudes toward the death penalty in jury selection, and race-based prosecutorial decisions.” It has to say something profound, does it not, that each of these men, none the least shrill zealots in their judicial views, would feel such remorse and regret over their roles in bringing the death penalty back to America. To me, it says they didn’t get from the states what they thought they were bargaining for.

Tomorrow, Georgia Murders Troy Davis | Dave Zirin

It’s with shock that I report that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday denied clemency for Troy Anthony Davis. The 42-year-old Davis is now due to be executed tomorrow, Wednesday September 21, at 7 pm. For those unfamiliar with the case, let’s be clear: Davis’s execution is little more than a legal lynching. This is a demonstrably innocent man that the state is about to execute in the premeditated manner of a murder.

The facts speak for themselves. Back in 1989, nine people testified that they saw Troy Davis kill Officer Mark MacPhail. Since that time, seven have recanted their testimony. Please allow me to repeat: of the nine people who testified that Troy killed Officer Mark MacPhail, seven have recanted their testimony. Beyond the eyewitnesses, there was no physical evidence linking Troy to Officer MacPhail’s murder. None. Three jurors have signed affidavits saying that if they had all the information about Troy, they would not have voted to convict. One juror even arrived in person to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to say to their faces that she would not have voted to convict if she’d had the facts. Another woman has even come forward to say that a different man on the scene that night, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, bragged afterward about doing the shooting. Of the two witnesses who still maintain that Troy was the triggerman, one is Sylvester “Redd” Coles.

From day one, Troy has maintained his innocence. But he was the wrong color, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong bank account and the wrong legal team, so he was thrown into the death house with little fanfare. Yet the tireless work of Troy’s family, particularly his sister Martina, brought international attention to the case. From former President Jimmy Carter, to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher, to Pope Benedict XVI, to Reagan’s former FBI Director, William Sessions, to the more than one million people who signed petitions, the call has gone out to spare Troy’s life. But the Board of Pardons and Paroles didn’t care. Previously the Board issued a statement that they would only allow the execution to go through, if there was “no doubt” as to his guilt. They lied.

Parole board denies clemency for Troy Davis  | ajc.com

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday denied clemency for Troy Anthony Davis after hearing pleas for mercy from Davis’ family and calls for his execution by surviving relatives of a murdered Savannah police officer.

“I am utterly shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice,” Brian Kammer, one of Davis’ attorneys, said Tuesday after the decision was announced.

John Lewis And 50 Other Congressmen Ask Georgia Parole Board To Grant Troy Davis Clemency | ThinkProgress

Next Wednesday, Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection. Davis’ case has drawn wide protests because seven out of the nine witnesses that testified against him have recanted their stories, and there is “no physical or scientific evidence” tying him to the death of the Savannah police officer he was convicted of killing.

Now, civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) has joined with 50 members of Congress to write an open letter to the Georgia State Board of Pardon & Paroles asking it to grant clemency to Troy Davis because of the “cloud of doubt” that exists over his case:

It is clear now that the doubts plaguing Davis’s case can never be adequately addressed; the lack of scientific or relevant physical evidence has made it impossible to resolve with any degree of certainty. Over the last four years, the inability of our courts to resolve these uncertainties has shaken public confidence in our judicial system, and an execution under such a cloud of doubt would do nothing but further undermine that confidence. Public faith in the integrity of justice in Georgia is at stake and it is for this reason that we urge you to grant clemency to Troy Davis.

Troy Davis and Jocks for Justice | Dave Zirin

I’ve worked in my spare time on Troy’s case for years and I just can’t believe it’s come to this. People from Jimmy Carter, to Desmond Tutu, to John Lewis have spoken out forcefully against Troy’s execution. Thousands have demonstrated. I even got several dozen athletes to sign a petition under the heading Jocks for Justice, to save Troy. The reality of the injustice before us has been that obvious. 

Troy was convicted of murdering off-duty police Officer Mark MacPhail in 1989, but there has long been demonstrable evidence that Troy is not guilty. Of the nine people who testified to Troy’s guilt, seven have recanted. Another man, the key witness who claims that Troy killed Officer MacPhail, has been named by several of the  ex-witnesses as the actual killer. And yet Georgia Judge William T. Moore Jr. calls this “smoke and mirrors.”

As Marlene Martin, national director of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, said:

“The case against Troy has fallen apart—nearly all of the witnesses have recanted their original testimony, no DNA connects him to the crime, and another man has admitted to committing the crime, according to several witnesses. At the very least, Troy should have been granted a new trial. But instead, we see the state of Georgia is set to kill him. What is the definition of cold-blooded murder? I would have to say this is it. “ 

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