The Supreme Court yesterday refused to review the conviction of Troy Davis, the Georgia man who's execution was stayed three weeks ago, two hours before he was scheduled to die. The state is now free to set a new date for the execution and, unless the Georgia Board of Paroles and Pardons has a sudden (and unlikely change of heart), Davis will be put to death soon.
You may recall that there is no forensic or physical evidence against Davis, and seven of nine eyewitnesses have recanted their testimony. If he were given a new trial, there would be no realistic chance of a conviction.
Davis' lawyers took the bold position that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment prohibits the execution of the innocent. (I have not read the briefs and therefore I do not know if they also argued that the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process is offended by the legalized killing of an innocent person; that seems to me--without the benefit of several years of thought about the matter that counsel have--more logical.)
If you are not a lawyer, the proposition that innocence should prevent execution is probably so obvious that you cannot conceive of how the law could rule otherwise. It shames us to know that our legal system could permit a result such as the Supreme Court has ordained.
And it shames us even more that not one of the justices of the Supreme Court dissented from the refusal to hear Troy Davis' appeal.
The noblest figure in this sad tale is Davis himself. According to the NY Times, his sister quotes him as saying, 'Even if they succeed in killing me, it will dismantle the death penalty system in Georgia because people are tired of injustice.'