If anyone has sought to confuse you or just plain insult your intelligence by intimating that the United States has entered into a “post-racial” age of enlightenment, you have this Skeptical Brotha’s permission to curse them out so hard that they beg your forgiveness. All one really has to do, if the aforemetioned is unappealing, is just say two words: Troy Davis.
I am primitive enough to actually believe in the death penalty despite knowing full well that the way in which it is administered discriminates against people on the basis of race and class. I am also old fashioned enough to want any would be victimizers of me or my family to pay the ultimate price.
The case against Georgia Death Row Inmate Troy Davis, 38, changes all that for me and it has me reconsidering the fundamentally corrosive nature of prolonged righteous rage brought on by the machinery of death. The family of the murdered police officer is prevented from having closure and so is the family of Troy Davis who are convinced of his innocence.
Anger and rage are the essential building blocks of any activism for good causes, but they are also the essential tools of the demagogue.
This is where Bill and Hillary Clinton come in. In the run up to the 1992 New Hampshire primary, Bill Clinton left the campaign trail and the questions surrounding the revelation of his affair wth Gennifer Flowers to execute a brain damaged brotha, Ricky Ray Rector.
I disliked Clinton because of the Ricky Ray Rector business. He left New Hampshire to go back to Arkansas and execute a man who was essentially unfit to plead–he certainly didn’t understand the charges against him, would have met any ordinary definition of clemency. I don’t think the Chinese execute people who are mentally disabled. Rector was lobotomized. And it was clear that Clinton did what he did to send a racist signal. It was as clear as it could possibly be. The week of Gennifer Flowers he kept saying, “Why don’t we talk about the issues?” So I asked him this: “Isn’t executing a mentally retarded black man for votes a clearer indication of what your morality is than what you do with blondes on the side?” Clinton turned his back on me. Walked away.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Clintons dipped into the well of racism against Barack Obama having deliberately used the unjustified execution of a black man to make a naked racial appeal to whitefolks back in 1992.
Once elected, Bill and Hillary Clinton continued turning their backs on justice. Bill signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
President Bill Clinton signed the AEDPA into law on 24 April 1996. “I have long sought to streamline federal appeals for convicted criminals sentenced to the death penalty,” he said at the signing; “For too long, and in too many cases, endless death row appeals have stood in the way of justice being served.” He added that “from now on, criminals sentenced to death for their vicious crimes will no longer be able to use endless appeals to delay their sentences.”
The Act placed new, unprecedented restrictions on prisioners raising claims of constitutional violations. It imposed severe time limits on the raising of constitutional claims, restricted the federal courts ability to review state court decisions, placed limits on federal courts granting and conducting evidentiary hearings, and prohibited “successive” appeals except in very narrow circumstances.
As one leading lawyer has said “The provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 restricting the power of federal courts to correct constitutional error in criminal cases represent a decision tat results are more important than process, that finality is more important than fairness, and that proceeding with executions is more important than determining whether convictions and sentences were obtained fairly and reliably.”
Under the AEDPA, once Troy Davis’ conviction and death sentence had been upheld by the Georgia Courts, the possibility of relief in the federal courts was curtailed. Federal relief was only permissible if the decision of a state court had “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved in an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” This deferential “reasonableness” standard represented “a remarkable departure from the traditional role of federal courts…to declare what the law is.”
The amazing thing about the case against Troy Davis is that there is literally no case. There is no physical evidence at all. No DNA, no murder weapon, no fingerprints, no footprints. Nothing. All there was against the brotha was the perjured testimony of coerced witnesses, 7 of whom now say in signed affidavits that one of their number was the real killer and that the combined effects of sloppy police work, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, and their fear of the real killer, produced this twisted and tragic result.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles delayed this execution for over a year to supposedly investigate the claims of innocence here thoroughly and completely. They still came to the same racist result as the orignial jury and every court of review.
At the end of the line and with state court appeals exhausted, executive clemency denied, and all federal appeals over, they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court one last time. The Supremes delayed the execution until next Monday. While a six-day repreive is cause for celebration for some, I am not hopeful. A Supreme Court that would essentially overturn Brown v. Board of Education is a Supreme Court that will come up with some convoluted, racist rationale for the execution of the innocent. Only time will tell.
The only thing I know for sure is that if Troy Davis dies, you can blame the Clintons for setting him up and sabotaging his legitimate claim of innocence.