Too bad Troy Davis doesn’t play lacrosse

Otherwise someone might be concerned that Davis is about to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit.

Otherwise, someone might be upset that he’s about to be executed for a crime he probably didn’t commit.

Two men scuffled in a Burger King parking lot, an off-duty cop tried to intervene, and one of the men killed the cop. It appears that the killer then went to the police and said he’d seen Davis pull the trigger, and the police then dutifully went about turning that false accusation into a capital sentence.

Here’s a piece of a statement from one of the key witnesses, who was 16 at the time of the shooting. (“Red” is the man who first accused Davis):

I told them it was Red and not Troy who was messing with that man, but they didn’t want to hear that. The detectives told me, “Fine, have it your way. Kiss your life goodbye because you’re going to jail.” After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear.

Having succeeded in obtaining a death sentence against an innocent man, prosecutors are sticking with it, and the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act has allowed them to keep all the recantations &#8212 by three out of the four witnesses in a case with no physical evidence whatever &#8212 out of the court record. So it doesn’t really matter of the rest of the Supreme Court agrees with the opinion of Scalia and Thomas (concurring in Herrera v. Collins) that if an innocent man has been convicted in a procedurally fair trial there’s no Constitutional bar to executing him; since AEDPA makes it all but impossible legally to prove innocence, the question doesn’t arise.

To his credit, William Sessions, FBI Director under Reagan and Bush the First, is trying to kick up a fuss. But it probably won’t do any good. And the Republicans and the right-wing media will accuse anyone who tries to change the law of being soft on crime.

Update The execution is tomorrow. The clemency hearing is today.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

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  1. Midnight Train to Georgia. More Than a Reasonable Doubt

    A Savannah, Georgia man is to be executed tomorrow for a murder, that nearly everyone including former jurors, think would be an extreme miscarriage of justice…..Read this poignant story by Mark Kleiman 'Too bad Troy Davis doesn't play lacrosse' Othe…

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