Time sums it up:
When Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a recent Republican presidential candidates’ debate that his sleep is untroubled by doubts about the guilt of any of the 235 men and women who have been executed on his watch, he pointed out that his state has “a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place” to review death penalty cases. A cornerstone of that process, in Texas and elsewhere, is the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which is designed to act as a safety valve, removed from the emotion of the crime and the courtroom. It’s a last resort, not to retry a case, but to ensure that a conviction is so ironclad that there is no doubt that it merits the ultimate punishment.
That safety valve failed in Georgia Tuesday, just as it has on a number of occasions in Texas. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied convicted murderer Troy Davis’ last appeal for clemency, setting him on a seemingly unstoppable course for execution Wednesday evening.
Judges in Butts County, GA, where the prison is located, and the Georgia Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed this morning by Davis’ lawyers challenging the “egregiously false and misleading” evidence presented at his trial. No physical evidence linked Davis to the crime, and seven eyewitnesses have made the extraordinary move of recanting their testimony.
The execution of what many believe is an innocent man is set for less than two hours from now. Davis’ plight reminds us of Justice Stewart’s concurring opinion in Furman v. Georgia, which led to a temporary moratorium on the death penalty nearly forty years ago. Forty years later, the death penalty is still cruel and unusual in its arbitrariness.