I don't know if Davis was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted but I share the concerns of thousands including the Pope, a former FBI director, and and ex-president of the United States that there were serious doubts as to his guilt.
The prosecutor in the case says that he is certain that Davis was guilty. The lack of any physical evidence linking Davis to the shooting and the recanting of key testimony by alleged witnesses to the crime did nothing to shake the prosecutor's certainty. He suggests that the witnesses lied when they recanted their identification of Davis as the shooter. I wish that I had his certainty.
Instead, I worry that the state of Georgia may have executed a man for a crime which he didn't commit. I worry that the witnesses, who say that their identification of Davis as the shooter was coerced by the police who wanted to be certain of a conviction of someone for killing one of their own, are telling the truth. I worry that the man who conveniently first pinned the shooting on Davis and who has subsequently been identified as the real shooter by an eyewitness, may have had a personal interest in misdirecting police attention to Davis. I worry that the cornerstone of criminal jurisprudence, the standard in capital cases of "beyond a reasonable doubt" has been disregarded in the state's execution of Troy Davis.
I feel for the MacPhail family, but the repeated assertions by them that Davis has had every opportunity to prove his innocence, gets it all wrong. Criminal prosecution is not about the defendant proving his innocence, it's about the state proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof that must be met in any trial. It's difficult to precisely define what the phrase means, but common law and case law have carved out the following definition:
The standard that must be met by the prosecution's evidence in a criminal prosecution: that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty.The prosecution stands firm in its belief that a jury of Mr. Davis' peers convicted him based on the the evidence with a certainty that was beyond reasonable doubt. Even accepting that as valid, what does it do to that conviction when the evidence presented by seven of the nine witnesses in that jury trial has been recanted by those witnesses?
It's difficult for many of us to imagine lying because you want to escape continued questioning by law enforcement. However, innocent people have confessed to crimes that they did not commit under the stress of police questioning. Did you know that the police are allowed to lie to you while questioning you? Their goal is to get you to admit "the truth."
I don't know what went on when those witnesses were questioned. I don't know if their subsequent recanting of testimony was the truth. What I do know is that no person should be executed by the state if there is any doubt as to that person's guilt.
I admit that I oppose the death penalty in principal. I don't believe that the state should be in the business of taking what it cannot give. In the words of John Donne, "...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."
Troy Davis died Wednesday night at 11:08 p.m. but we were all diminished by his death.