‘Justice’ American style

September 27, 2011 12:37 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Despite a million petitioners including the Pope, Archbishop Tutu, and former FBI chief William S Sessions, on Wednesday, September 21, 201l at around 11:00 PM an innocent man was killed by a stubborn Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles – motivated, apparently, by racism, bigotry, and a wish to push the matter under the rug.

Troy Anthony Davis was in all likelihood innocent. More than twenty years ago, on eye witness testimony alone, he was convicted of a shooting. Seven of nine of those eye witnesses have now recanted. One of the other two, likely the real killer, recently confessed his guilt at a party. Jurors in Davis’ trial say if they knew then what they know now, they would have found Davis not guilty.

Incredible as it sounds, Davis’s innocence was deemed irrelevant to his execution. US Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia stated: “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.”

Did America fight a revolution to arrive at such official cruelty? What has our amazing country, once the bastion of world freedom, welcoming me and my family when we fled the holocaust, come to? We have reached the nadir of common sense and humanity. Does Troy Anthony Davis’ execution toll the death knell for our democracy?

We have become a country that tortures and assassinates, maintains military bases throughout the world, sides with tyrants to promote business, blocks anti global warming initiatives. We are not the good guys anymore, as we were in World War II. We are now the evil empire. Our government initiates endless senseless war, massacring thousands of innocents year after year in our name. What Eisenhower warned us against has come to pass – the self-interested inhumane military-industrial complex rules us and, like those behemoth monsters in old movies, is able to destroy entire cities.

At the recent Republican Presidential Candidates’ debate, the strong applause that greeted CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer’s mention of the high number of executions in Texas, under the Governorship of Rick Perry, marks the degree of decay in our values. There is no longer even the pretense of helping the poor and the underprivileged. What happened to “Give me your tired, your hungry and your poor”, as the inscription on the Statue of Liberty reads? We protect the super-rich. We have become putrid with fundamentalist opportunism. Noam Chomsky shakes his wise head over the selfish policies openly pushed by current Republican Presidential Candidates which he describes as ”’off the international spectrum of sane behaviour.”

I watched the tireless Amy Goodman on Democracy Now’s remarkable six hour on site coverage of Georgia’s public execution of an innocent man. I meditated, joining tens of thousands of others, hoping to assuage the pain and terror of Davis and his family. I did not know what else to do. I have fantasised about blowing the bureaucratic anonymity of the members of the Georgia State parole board, of publicising their names and show their ugly mugs on the internet – let them feel what the world thinks of them). I have thought of writing a play about what is happening but life seems to have outstripped art in its outrageousness.

The State of Georgia, with the agreement of Georgia-born US Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, with no other Justices dissenting, officially killed an innocent man by lethal injection. They did this after granting Davis a three and a half hour ‘reprieve’ while they considered his appeal. This, the fourth time Davis was close to being killed by the state, the state actually did it. Determinedly, obtusely, cruelly, with racial bias and emotional rigidity, they killed an innocent man. Were they protecting the police who intimidated the witnesses at Davis’ trial, witnesses who later recanted? Did the family of the slain police officer, sitting in the front row at Davis’s execution, think ”we don’t care if you did it or not, we have our revenge?” A ”legal lynching” was the phrase used by Troy Davis’ lawyer. ”Grotesque”, said the head of Amnesty International.

Davis died with dignity, telling the family of the man he was accused of killing that he did not do it, urging them to bring the real killer to trial, and blessing the people about to kill him. Conversely, Davis’ own family were not allowed to witness his execution. Nor were three of the witnesses Davis had asked to be present. The prison warden gave no reason for denying Davis’ request. It was probably the same reason Davis was never allowed to speak with the press. The state of Georgia wanted neither his innocence nor his goodness as a person to be seen by others. They just wanted the case over and done with. Davis refused a tranquiliser before being killed and he refused a special last meal. He said, “They can kill my body but not my spirit.”

It is up to us now to carry on his fight. Let’s all wear an ‘I Am Troy Davis’ T-shirt because if Troy Davis can be killed by the state, then any innocent person can be killed by the state. Let us change the shameful face of this country’s justice system, abolish the death penalty, and transform the toxic national emotional-political climate which allows such an inhuman cruel act to be officially performed. Let us keep exposing hidden truths to ourselves and to the world in every imaginative way we can. Hooray for Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange. Let’s bring art to bear with poetry and feeling. Truth matters.


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This post was written by Jean Claude van Itallie

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