The State of Georgia is about to execute a man convicted on the basis of eyewitness testimony that has, almost in its entirety, been retracted. There was no physical evidence against him. A former US president, a former FBI Director, a beavy of unpaid legal experts, and a group of former wardens who have all carried out death penalties, have all called for Georgia to stop the execution. But it has refused – even though another man has confessed to the murder, and even though that man was one of the eyewitnesses who put Troy Davis on Death Row. Constrained by law to decide based on narrow legal grounds that have nothing to do with the now recanted eyewitness testimony, the US Supreme Court refused to stay the execution. And as I write this, we are moments away from what appears to be the most unjust US execution of modern times.
Originally published at 10:31 pm CDT on 9-21-11.
Troy Davis is now dead.
The State of Georgia killed him moments ago as punishment for a crime – a cop killing – he almost certainly did not commit.
Davis's case has been in the news for weeks, and he has attracted a large number of supporters from former US President Jimmy Carter, former FBI Director William Sessions, a bevy of unpaid legal experts, and a group of former wardens who have all carried out death penalties – including the warden who once headed the prison where Troy Anthony Davis now awaits death.
Davis is the quintessential example of a case where execution should be stopped.
Seven of the nine eyewitnesses against Davis have recanted their testimony. Some of them say police coerced the false testimony that put Davis on death row.
The one piece of physical evidence against Davis was ballistic evidence that was subsequently discredited.
Three of the jurors who convicted Davis now say they would never have voted for the death penalty if the court had told them the ballistic evidence was no good, and they certainly would not do so now after so many of the eyewitnesses have publicly recanted.
Drunk, another man confessed to the murder. That man was one of the eyewitnesses who put Troy Davis on Death Row, and he was a main suspect as police first investigated.
Even Bob Barr, a former Republican US congressman from Georgia and an attorney who did work for Sholom Rubashkin's defense, asked for this execution to be halted.
Troy Davis was poor and he's black and he got a substandard defense as a result. His lawyers lacked the money to put on a good defense. He didn't have a legal team approaching double digits culled from the top attorneys in the country.
Davis has always maintained his innocence and his story has not changed at all in the more than 20 years this horrible process has gone on.
Unlike Martin Grossman, who killed a cop and tried to cover up his crime, and who was convicted on the basis of strong physical evidence, Davis is almost certainly innocent.
But because Davis is not a "brother," a fellow Jew, the Chabad followers and the haredim who cried and wailed and fought for Grossman have done nothing to help Davis.
In the same way, the Chabad and haredi community that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Sholom Rubashkin's defense when there are reams of evidence proving beyond any doubt that Rubashkin is guilty have raised nothing for Troy Davis. They've raised no money and they've offered no protest. They haven't even offered a prayer.
Injustice in America's legal system almost always hurts the poor and the darkly colored.
Lighter colored people, wealthier people almost never notice.
The head of Georgia's Board of Pardons and Savannah's District Atorney are both black. The racism that hurt Troy Davis hurt him 22 years ago when that was not the case.
Sholom Rubashkin and Martin Grossman really did not deserve our support. But the Troy Davises, including the Jewish Troy Davises, who could not get justice because they could not pay for it did and still do.
We are blessed to live in a country whose legal system is almost totally free of antisemitism.
By and large, Jews are treated just like everyone else is – sometimes, as we saw in Rabbi Leib Glantz's Riker's Island bar mitzvah shindig, even better than others are.
But to turn our backs on the Troy Davises of this country is wrong. It is immoral. It is un-Jewish. It is profoundly selfish – especially when so much community effort is thrown into cases like Rubashkin's and Grossman's, who are both guilty way beyond any reasonable doubt.
Troy Davis was killed at 11:08 Eastern Daylight Time tonight, an almost certainly innocent man murdered by a state acting in bad faith.
America cannot have a dealth penalty if the death penalty is this poorly and unfairly adminstered.
Many people fought for Troy Davis, many people prayed for him and many people mourned and cried for him.
That we were not among them is travesty, a shonde.
And we should all be ashamed.