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  • Rob Will

The Troy Davis Supreme Court Ruling

On August 17, 2009 the Supreme Court issued a decision in the Troy Davis case. The court ordered the case back to the lower federal district court for a hearing on his innocence claim. In 1989 Davis was convicted of the murder of a Savannah Georgia police officer and subsequently sentenced to death. Since then seven of the main witnesses in his case have recanted their testimony. The court made the right decision. Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were the only two justices that dissented, which isn’t a surprise being that they’ve always been known to take the most ultra-right wing position available. The overall tone of the dissenting opinion is rather disturbing however.

As an August 19 New York Times editorial noted: “In a shocking dissent Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dismissed the idea that the courts have a duty to ensure that they are not putting an innocent man to death.” Scalia wrote the opinion and Thomas concurred. Antonin Scalia is a master of the art of Sophistry. A core element of his swagger, his overall style, is the ability to conjure up great rhetorical clouds of seemingly impenetrable labyrinthine reasoning that arbitrarily justifies his logically untenable positions.

To give an in-depth analysis of the dissent would be far too time consuming — and indeed mind-numbing — but I do want to address one issue. Scalia states as absolute fact that Troy Davis received a fair trial “untainted by constitutional defect.” The United States Constitution specifically and expressly guarantees a person the right to a fair trial and prohibits cruel and unusual punishment.

Seven of the main trial witnesses in the Davis case have recanted. Several of them have admitted to being intimidated into testifying. The Davis trial was plagued by other injustices but those two above mentioned facts alone prove unequivocally that the trial was indeed very tainted by constitutional defect.

Receiving an unfair trial is constitutionally objectionable. Being sentenced to death by a flawed trail proceeding is severely antithetical to the principles laid out in the constitution. And would it not be cruel and unusual punishment to execute an innocent person?


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