It Is Likely We Have Executed Innocent People

istock_000001493056xsmall.jpg Troy Anthony Davis, the Death Penalty and Innocent Men

Most Americans have limited contact with the judicial system. For the most part, our contact with the courts usually amounts to an occasional interaction in traffic court or small claims court. Unless you are an attorney, law student, or are in some other way associated with the law, you generally have limited legal knowledge.

I have written a couple of pieces about Troy Anthony Davis a man convicted of murder who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday October 27th. (since the writing of this article, Davis has received another stay of execution).

What many of you may not know is that this case has attracted international attention because evidence suggests Davis was wrongly convicted. The Pope, Former President Jimmy Carter, Congressional Representative John Lewis, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Amnesty International and hundreds of others believe now, after hearing what the courts have not heard, that Troy Anthony Davis could very well be innocent. They have issued letters of support and asked the Supreme Court to at least hear the appeal but to no avail.

Yesterday, on NPR there were a couple of interviews where this case was discussed. It is almost incomprehensible that this man will likely be executed without ever having his appeal heard.


Troy Anthony Davis

In September the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution just two hours before the execution was to occur. The reason the stay was issued was to give the Supreme Court time to determine if they would hear Davis’ appeal. The Supreme Court receives hundreds of appeals each year. It is at the courts discretion that it decides which ones will be heard. The court decided against hearing Davis’ appeal. Troy Davis (pictured here) has now been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday, October 27, 2008.

This case and hundreds like it beg the question, “Do we follow through with executions because procedure dictates even when there is a reasonable doubt of guilt?”. Virginia Sloan, Jeffrey Rosen and Robert Blecker, offered their opinions on this question in the NPR interview. It is well worth listening to.

Other sources of information on this topic follow. Many Americans will never hear about this tragic case. According to the Innocence Project , there are hundreds of other cases very much like this one. Mainstream Media does a great job keeping us underinformed and overentertained.

The Governor of Georgia can provide clemency. This is Troy Davis’ last hope. You can write to the Governor of Georgia by clicking here.

The video below is of Ray Krone, one of the hundreds who have been exonerated because of DNA evidence.

Finally, CNN did an interesting expose on death row that can be seen below:


  1. Paul Koretz says

    That is exactly why I authored a bill to implement a moritorium on the Death Penalty in the California State Assembly. Nationally since we reinstated the Death Penalty, over 100 people on death row have been exonerated, including six Californians (as I recall). The fact that information came to light that saved their lives and cleared them appears to have been happenstance, rather than anything terribly unique about their cases. I have no doubt that many more who haven’t been that lucky have died in prison or been executed.

    I firmly believe that we can’t continue executing people until we have identified the patterns that lead to wrongful convictions and change the process.

    I’m not a cheerleader for the death penalty anyway, but at a minimum, we must stop convicting (and I’m sure in some cases, executing) the innocent. There are few things more tragic than that.

    One solution proposed is to provide for life in prison without possbility of parole in capital cases. The majority of Californians support the Death Penalty simply because they don’t want murderers ever to be released and be a threat to them and their families. It is a less expensive approach, and gives those who are innocent a modest chance to someday have that proven and obtain their release. Also, our State has a 100% perfect track record on this– no one ever given this penalty has been paroled and released.

    In responding further to the question of whether innocence matters, I also did a bill to deal with how we handle those who are found innocent while serving time for the crimes for which they were convicted. Amazingly, we treat them worse than those who are guilty and are released after serving their time. We do not provide the social services given to the guilty, and we do not even automatically expunge their record! So in many cases, their conviction follows them for life, and they have the same high unemployment rate, suicide rate, etc. as the guilty.

    I believe that bill would have passed with another year of pushing for it, but I was termed out before having the chance. (Alas, six year Assembly term limits). Hard to believe, but there was significant opposition.

    I hope that at some point, innocence will matter much more than it does in our system presently.

    • says


      Thank you for your well written response and for the position you have taken on the Death Penalty issue. I have been sick about this for weeks. I just don’t understand why or how people can be so callous about innocent people being put to death. Surely, there are some members of the U.S. Supreme Court who have lingering doubt about the guilt of Troy Anthony Davis.


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