Half of the battle is picking the right fight

September 21, 2011

I’m opposed to the death penalty, but the current hubbub about the Troy Davis case has me scratching my head.  I don’t know the case well (meaning I’ve only read 1 online summary), but it doesn’t seem that there’s much to question in the pro-Davis camp.  But then again, maybe I’m just too jaded.

It seems that the crux of the argument is that 7 of the original 9 witnesses have subsequently recanted their testimony.  Seven of nine is a high percentage, no question about it.  But isn’t it too high?

I once read somewhere that the Sanhedrin, the traditional Jewish court system, had a rule against unanimous verdicts; the thinking is that there is always a doubt in criminal cases, and that if all of the judges/jurors agreed on something, that there most be something awry.  According to legend, Jesus was convicted by a unanimous verdict, but handed over to the Romans in spite of the Jewish law.

Which is what comes to mind when I hear that 7 witnesses have changed their minds since they originally testified.  Isn’t that reversal inherently suspicious?  Doesn’t it mean that the police successfully conspired to badger and intimidate 9 different people into lying against somebody in a capital case? 

Have the police ever been so successful in doing anything?  Have you ever heard of anybody who had 9 enemies willing to perjure themselves to get a death sentence handed down? 

Of course, not.  What probably happened –at the crime scene and in the courtroom– did happen.  And anti-death penalty advocates have chosen the wrong case to get behind.