September 2011, Week 4


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Thu, 22 Sep 2011 22:06:12 -0400
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Legal Lynching in America Today

* The State of Georgia has Murdered Troy Davis - The
Movement Continues - ColorofChange.org
* Murder Is Good Politics, Bad Justice - Robert Scheer,
* Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit


The State of Georgia has Murdered Troy Davis - The Movement

ColorofChange.org - hanging the color of democracy
September 21, 2011


At 11:08 pm Wednesday, the state of Georgia killed Troy
Davis. Just before he was executed, Troy maintained his
innocence, urged people to dig deeper into the case to find
the truth, and said "For those about to take my life, may
God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls."
It's a tragic day for Troy, for his family, and for
equality, fairness, and justice.

It's hard to know what to say at a time like this. In this
moment, and in the days and weeks before Troy's execution,
we've felt all kinds of things - anger, sadness,
inspiration, hope and hopelessness. This is a time to mourn
and remember Troy, to contemplate the profound loss we're
facing, to send love and support to Troy's family and
friends. It's incredibly important to take the time to
spiritually and emotionally care for Troy's family and the
amazing community that has arisen to support Troy - and it
feels hard to muster the energy to do much more than that.

But before he died, Troy told us that this was about more
than him - and he called on those of us who have fought
against his execution to continue fighting for justice, even
if we weren't successful in saving his life. Now is also an
important moment to take stock of what's brought us to this
point - the criminal justice system that allowed this to
happen, and the movement we've built to fight for Troy and
others facing injustice and oppression at the hands of that

Race, the criminal justice system, and the death penalty

At every stage of the criminal justice system, Black people
and other minorities face inequality and discrimination. We
all know about people who've been treated unfairly by police
or by the courts. When the entire system treats Black people
unequally, it means that the death penalty is applied
unequally too. Troy Davis' case underscores the way in which
this systemic inequality can lead to a tragic miscarriage of

In most cases, people who've been treated unfairly or
wrongly convicted have some chance to correct the injustice.
People who have been mistreated by the police can sue them.
People who are wrongly serving time can be granted new
trials, can be released from prison, and are sometimes
entitled to compensation. As we all know, the safeguards
that can correct abuse by the criminal justice system often
fail, and rampant inequality persists. Usually, people can
at least keep trying.

But there's no way to correct a death sentence. If Troy
Davis were serving a sentence of life in prison without
parole, he could continue to press the legal system to grant
him a fair trial - but because the death penalty exists, he
will not have that opportunity.

Troy Davis' case has sparked a national conversation about
the death penalty. In the past, much of the debate around
the death penalty has focused on the morality of killing
people as a legal punishment - a very important question
that brings out a lot of strong opinions. But even if we
completely leave aside the question whether or not it can
ever be right for the government to punish a murderer by
killing them, there's an entirely different debate to be had
- whether or not we can have the death penalty and actually
avoid the possibility of killing innocent people. In a
criminal justice system that routinely misidentifies Black
suspects and disproportionately punishes Black people, Black
folks are more likely to be wrongfully executed.

There's plenty of evidence to suggest that the death penalty
has been used to kill innocent people many times. Since
1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row
because of evidence that they were wrongly convicted. Troy
Davis is one of many people who were executed despite
serious questions about their guilt, and he's called on his
supporters to continue working to end the death penalty.

A group of NAACP organizers went to visit Troy in prison
yesterday, and NAACP's Robert Rooks said this about the

    For someone that was facing death the very next day, he
    was just full of life and wanted to spend time talking
    to the younger staff, the interns, giving them direction
    and hope and asking them to hold onto God. And he
    challenged them. He challenged them by saying, "You have
    a choice. You can either fold up your bags after
    tomorrow and go home, or you can stand and continue this
    fight." He said it doesn't - it didn't begin with Troy
    Davis, and this won't end if he is executed today. He
    just asked us all just to continue to fight to end the
    death penalty, if in fact he's executed.

A powerful movement

For years, ColorOfChange members have been an important part
of a growing movement to stop Troy Davis' execution.
Hundreds of phone calls from ColorOfChange members to the
Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole helped delay Davis'
execution twice. Over the past year, there's been a huge
outpouring of support for Davis from ColorOfChange members -
more than 100,000 of us have signed petitions, and we raised
more than $30,000 to run radio ads in Georgia calling for
justice for Troy.

And we've been part of an even bigger movement - NAACP,
Amnesty International, National Action Network, Change.org,
and others have all been a major part of the fight for Troy
Davis, and there are now over close to a million petition
signatures overall. Prominent people from all across the
political spectrum have spoken out: members of the
Congressional Black Caucus, Desmond Tutu, former President
Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William
Sessions, former Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr,
and former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman

This movement couldn't stop Davis' execution - but it's a
movement that won't die with Troy Davis. There's no better
way to honor Troy's memory than to keep fighting for

Thanks and Peace,

-- Rashad, James, Gabriel, William, Dani, Matt, Natasha and
the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team September 21st, 2011


Murder Is Good Politics, Bad Justice

by Robert Scheer

September 22, 2011


	"...the recanted testimony of most of the witnesses
	against him, was overwhelming. But of course that is
	now beside the point, which is exactly what is so
	wrong about the use of the death penalty. No matter
	what evidence of innocence might be produced in the
	future, it is of consequence no longer."

I don't know if Troy Davis was innocent, but I do know that
the evidence for demanding a re-examination of his
conviction, including the recanted testimony of most of the
witnesses against him, was overwhelming. But of course that
is now beside the point, which is exactly what is so wrong
about the use of the death penalty. No matter what evidence
of innocence might be produced in the future, it is of
consequence no longer.

That is a compelling argument against the death penalty - no
room for correction - but there are others. The most
egregious argument for capital punishment is the claim that
the finality of officially condoned killing is a necessary
guarantor of civilized order. Egregious because it is not
possible to make that case without explaining why most of
the democratic societies that we admire shun the death
penalty as contrary to their most deeply held values.

Or is it China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen, which, along
with the United States, led the world in government
executions, that we most admire? There is something
stunningly disgraceful about the company we keep on this

As Amnesty International - the world's premier human rights
organization, which deserves high marks for its anti-death
penalty campaign - points out, more than two-thirds of the
world's nations have abolished the death penalty in law or
practice. I defy anyone to compare the list of countries
that have retained the death penalty with those that have
abolished it and then conclude that it serves a needed

It is obvious from the experience of those nations without
the death penalty and our own 17 states that have banned
capital punishment that this barbaric custom is not a
necessary, let alone efficient, means for ensuring public
safety. Due process in the United States, which claims to
have an enlightened legal system, requires death penalty
procedures that are costlier than appropriate incarceration.

Advertisement Governments that cling to this primitive
ritual of state-sanctioned murder do so not to induce
respect for law but rather to indulge a lust for vengeance.
Toward that end it would be far more honest to have the
bound prisoner stoned to death by the governors, state
legislators, prosecutors and judges who support the death
penalty rather than employing lethal injections by
disengaged technicians. Forcing them to be the executioners
in actual practice rather than as a matter of legal theory
would compel a far greater sense of personal responsibility
than politicians and some others tend to exhibit on the

From my own experience as a journalist covering this issue,
the vast majority of politicians who defend capital
punishment do so out of rank opportunism, which they
demonstrate, particularly when the conversation is off the
record, by citing polling numbers rather than evidence of
the death penalty as a capital crime deterrent.

As I waited for the news of Troy Davis' fate, my thoughts
kept returning to that day in 1960 when we Berkeley students
picketed the California governor's office in pleading for a
stay in the execution of convicted rapist Caryl Chessman,
who was never accused of murder. It didn't come because Gov.
Pat Brown, despite his deep reservations about the case, had
succumbed to public opinion. I never imagined then that more
than half a century later the death penalty would still be
enforced. That it is mocks our claim to be a moral leader in
this world.

It is appropriate that we grieve for the slain police
officer, Mark MacPhail, but if Davis was not the one with
the gun, as he claimed to the end, the true murderer will
have gone unpunished, as suggested by Davis' haunting plea
to the MacPhail family minutes before he died: "I did not
personally kill your son, father, brother. All I can ask is
that you look deeper into this case so you really can
finally see the truth."

Execution is a means of summarily ending the pursuit of
justice rather than advancing it.

This case was so freighted with contradictions that a stay
of execution was clearly in order. As Amnesty International
spokesperson Laura Moye stated: "Today Georgia didn't just
kill Troy Davis, they killed the faith and confidence that
many Georgians, Americans, and Troy Davis supporters
worldwide used to have in our criminal justice system."

[Robert Scheer, editor in chief of Truthdig, has built a
reputation for strong social and political writing over his
30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers
across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made
headlines. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine
interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his
heart and he went on to do many interviews for the Los
Angeles Times with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill
Clinton and many other prominent political and cultural

Between 1964 and 1969 he was Vietnam correspondent, managing
editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. From 1976
to 1993 he served as a national correspondent for the Los
Angeles Times, writing on diverse topics such as the Soviet
Union, arms control, national politics and the military. In
1993 he launched a nationally syndicated column based at the
Los Angeles Times, where he was named a contributing editor.
That column ran weekly for the next 12 years and is now
based at Truthdig.]


Billie Holiday: Strange Fruit




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