Friday, June 26, 2009

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

Two years ago, Keith and I spent several months of our summer dealing with the "tree branch fiasco." In the course of a day's work, he found himself on a street with many low hanging limbs...and had no choice but to keep going until he was off the street. There were no side streets where he could way out but straight ahead to a street (where the height of the branches did NOT violate city ordinances)  So with branches scraping the top of the truck, sides of the truck, making all kinds of noise, he slowly made his way. Unbeknownst to him, he downed a branch..which fell on a front of several witnesses...and all in the vicinity of the police station. He was nabbed..the truck scrutinized by 4 or 5 police officers..all of whom seemed to be intent on "getting the truck driver."  A few days later, the citation arrived in the mail.  Leaving the scene of an offense which would cost him his HAZMAT endorsements if found guilty...which would cost him his job.  He didn't know he'd caused an accident...was not irresponsible in not knowing (because of all the scraping of the branches...down the length of his tractor and 52 foot trailer) so he really was not guilty of leaving the scene of an "accident"  The Bloomsburg police really didn't give a crap about innocent or guilty. 

So we had to go through all kinds of expense and red tape to get the charge reduced.  The point of this little trip down memory lane?  From the lips of the lawyer we hired to help us....our justice system claims innocent until proven guilty but in reality it is just the opposite.  Guilty until proven innocent.  I came upon a striking example of this while clicking around on AOL.  An excerpt from the AOL article....

Troy Davis has been at death's door before. On Georgia's death row for nearly 18 years now for the murder of a police officer, the former sports coach has received several stays of execution -- including one last fall just an hour before he was scheduled to die. Now, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him to Mark Allen MacPhail's death; despite the fact that seven of nine witnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony; and, despite the fact that the NAACP, former president Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel Laureate archbishop Desmond Tutu; conservative former Georgia congressman Bob Barr, and former FBI director William Sessions have all have called for a new trial, Davis may have finally run out of options.

A motion before the Supreme Court to reopen the case due to new evidence was to have been heard today, but chances that the justices will grant the necessary writ of Habeas Corpus aren't great. The high court has not granted a writ of Habeas Corpus since 1925. Should the Court deny the motion, the countdown to Davis' death begins again, and his execution date could be set within weeks.

Calling this case "the most compelling case of innocence in decades," NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous has waged a no-holds-barred media campaign to get the condemned man a new trial. Many of the witnesses now say they were pressured by police or prosecutors to finger Davis, and several have identified another witness, Sylvester "Redd" Coles, as the true culprit. Meanwhile, Davis has reportedly been a model prisoner.

Said Jealous in a recent essay:

I met with Troy a few weeks ago. I watched the eyes of the guards who are clearly touched by Troy's plight, the stony masks that guards are supposed to wear crack as Troy told his story. I met a woman in the parking lot who said her next door neighbor, a former guard, quit rather than have to oversee Troy's march to the death chamber.
I was moved talking with his sister, diagnosed with breast cancer and given months to live in 2001. I had a chance to hug her son – who I had met almost a decade ago as a NAACP youth member -who visits Troy once a week and looks to him as a mentor.
Source: The Grio

The NAACP, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, is urging Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to intervene. Larry Chisolm, the new African American district attorney for Savannah, also has the power to reopen the case. With the clock ticking, the NAACP is also calling on us to appeal to these men to spare Davis' life.

Will you help? It's as easy as visiting

In the end, Keith agreed to plead guilty to a lesser (bullshit) charge...disorderly conduct.  It will stay on his record forever.  The stakes in our situation were a loss of income for a while...something we would have lived through and eventually recovered from (although at the time I was very concerned).  This guy is fighting for his life.  The stakes are so high.  Can you imagine the frustration of being innocent, yet facing execution? 

If there had only ever been ONE Troy Davis in the history of our penal innocent man convicted and sentenced to death...that alone makes capital punishment unacceptable in my view.  A link in the AOL article shows other black men who were exonerated after years of imprisonment because of new DNA evidence. This begs the many innocent men have not been exonerated and were actually executed for a crime they did not commit? 

Check out these other informative pages on Troy Davis...including pages with things you can do to help him win a new trial. 

An online petition at I Am Troy

Amnesty International Page on Troy's case...also with a petition

And another page with all kinds of information about his case and situation



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