Death row mistake
Published: September 7, 2010
Should we execute a man when the witnesses against him admit they lied?
A federal judge has held that a man on death row in Georgia did not meet the high standard of proving his innocence and will not get a new trial. Instead, Troy Davis will face execution.
Davis was convicted 18 years ago of murdering Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Ga. No murder weapon was ever found. He was convicted solely on witness testimony. Since then, all but two of the witnesses has recanted or contradicted the testimony given. Many of the witnesses state that the police pressured them into testifying or giving statements against Troy Davis. One of the two witnesses who has not recanted his testimony is Sylvester “Red” Coles. There is new evidence implicating Coles as the real murderer of Mark MacPhail, including affidavits from nine individuals that implicate Coles.
This should be more than enough to grant Troy Davis a new trial. Execution is the ultimate power of the state and cannot be legitimately exercised when there is doubt about the guilt of the defendant. Georgia’s failure to provide Troy Davis a new trial in these circumstances is a violation of due process. The government of Georgia owes Troy Davis a new trial. The federal judiciary owes all U.S. citizens a real review of state action for compliance with the federal constitution. The federal review in this case didn’t provide that, in part because the standard for the grant of a new trial is too high.
No execution should go forward when there is so much doubt and uncertainty. Please join Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and Amnesty International USA in demanding justice for Troy Davis and a fair justice system for all.
Cassandra S. Edson
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Reginald Blanton wrote this the day he found out about his execution date. Reg was executed 27th October 2009 by the State of Texas. REGINALDS SITE
Reginald Blanton © 2009
2pm. 7-16-09. I just woke up. I had slept for exactly 8 hours. I am a night owl. Yet, I was not rejuvenated. I did not feel balanced. I told myself that something was happening in the Universe. In the distant dark galaxy of my being I felt something approaching. Id had an earlier hunch but dispelled it with my exhale. I grabbed all my senses; all of my energy and brought them inside, concentrating it. Concentrating on soothing the waters of what I thought was a turbulent mind-body. Here I was, doing the same thing today. An hour went by. I was frustrated because my meditation yielded very little. I decided to conclude my meditation with the Tripod Pose, a Hatha Yoga posture where I ease into a headstand, feet in the sky, while focusing on my breathing. This pose is designed to calm your mind-body. I felt it might do the trick. It has always worked in the past. I heard the gate pop. Then there were jangling keys as somebody made their way upstairs to 2 row where I was encaged. I brought my attention back, like, Get back over here! Like that. Then my senses went back outside. Blanton! What are you doing? The Major wants to talk to you, said the Sergeant. I eased out of my posture and into another called Child Pose before getting up and telling the Sergeant I had been meditating and needed some time to brush my teeth. I brought my attention fully back and noticed that I was nervous. I knew what it was. Damn! I knew what it was . I gave the Sergeant my jumpsuit, sort of spun while shaking out my boxers to try to keep from having to degrade myself by stripping completely naked and having to turn around and spread mywell, you know. The Sergeant wasnt tripping today. He told me to just come on. I didnt like that. He was being a (little) nice. That was not a good sign. Not good at all
We get out in the hallway and he asked me if I knew what this was about. But it was the way he said it. He said it like he knew what it was about. Damn. I told him I did. I saw the nurse and asked him if he had my morphine shot. Ha, ha, um, ha, *ahem*. That did not make me feel any better. I tried though. I just decided to stay quiet the rest of the way. We get in the Majors office. I sit down and cross my legs, looking him square in the eye, all sorts of emotions flowing through me: Anger, embarrassment, sadness Whats up, Major? I asked. In a slow and somber tone he told me that I had an execution date and he was going to explain a few things to me and have me moved to Death Watch. He said that hed just found out himself. All I could see in my mind was my Queen. All I could feel is what she would feel. I thought I was going to be sick. I tried to hide it. I knew what time it was. I knew this was coming. And after the march we just had outside of the courthouse in San Antonio, I knew that the D.A.s werent going to hesitate to immediately set a murder date for me. This wasnt supposed to be happening. It just wasnt. Maybe I was naive. Me, the realist, naïve. The courts were going to see the injustice and refuse to let me be railroaded. Yet they railroaded me. It was like the many stories Ive read about battered women. Shes getting beat by her husband. She knows that hes going to keep on beating her. Hes vicious. She knows hes going to stop. Hes a good man.
Everything was suddenly happening so fast. Everything was surreal. Yet I had been preparing for this for 9 years.
No! You cannot prepare for something like this. You just cant. 28 years young. Just the other day that one officer cried when she found out how young I was; how much I remind her of her own kids. I have too much life where they said only dwelt death. I have too much life pouring out of me to prepare to die. Die? Die for what?! Yall are trying to kill, wrongly, a loving, beautiful man. Not a killer. Not a monster. A man with a family. A beautiful, loving wife. A beautiful, loving step-son. My Mama. My people. My people need me. You are trying to steal me away from the people who need me. The Major tells me about the number of witnesses I can have; talks about a last will. A last will, yall! A last will?! What about my will to live?!
The Major talksI drift in and out of even being there at all. He talks about disposition of any trust funds, disposition of personal property. He talks of my last meal; how they wont get me any lobster or shrimp, or T-bone steak. He was trying to make light of the situation. But there was nothing light about it at all. It was heavy; heavy like my consciousness. Lobster ?! I dont give a damn about a last meal! A last meal?! A last meal is the farthest thing from my mind. But this wasnt what I wanted to say. I said it, yes. But it wasnt what was just beyond my ability to put into words. It just would have been wrapped in phrases with the words: Love, Justice, Passion; Sun and Supernova; Consciousness, Soul; Infinity, Eternity.Words like that.Worlds like that.The Major talks about disposition of Remains. He kept talking but Remains kept echoing in my mind. Remains? Remains? Remains of what?! I guess the Major say my confusion and specified body.
My thoughts went back to My Queen; my precious wife.BabyThe Major, who once told me I talk too much, talks. The Major, who I once told, You would rather me talk to you than to not talk to you at all, talks about my last commissary spend. He said I can spend $150 two weeks from the execution date. I was outraged! I am not going to put $150 of money I dont even have into their pocket as something of a going away gift; thats provided I can manage to stomach any food at all. Im not trying to spend $150 two weeks out on my commissary! I said. The Major told me that he was only letting me know what my options were. Those were my options? My options?! Thats that problem: They are constantly limiting my options. If its not going home to my wifes sacred embrace then it is not an option for me! If its not living then it is not an option for me! I am a man and will define my own options, my own destiny, worth more than a hundred and fifty bucks.Finally, the Major talks about the so called last special visits and how they would happen.Mama was taken off my visitation list, I said without trying to say it. It just spilled out with some of the anger.
They took Mama off my visitation list last year to torture me into telling them who brought the cell phones into this unit one of which I had used to call Mama every morning before she went to work to tell her I love her. They took my damn Mama off the list because of it, we she did not violate any visitation rules.are yall going to put Mama back on the list? I ask. It was more like, this is the least you should do for me in light, yeah light of things they were trying to take from me:Gimme your freedom!Gimme your mind!Gimme your Mama!Gimme your LIFE Whoa, whoa, whoa. Now youre just asking for too damn much.The Major looked at me for a moment, in silence, taking the measure of a man that was containing himself, and lords knows how. A man whose words were filled to the brim, no brimming over, with all that I was containing; with ALL, EVERYTHING spilling everywhere from the eyes of my words, those windows.There is just so much in me. Just so, so muchThe Major told me that he couldnt promise anything, but that he would talk to the Warden and see what he says. Just for that brief moment, that brief moment we shared in silence, I could tell he gave in to his humanity. For that brief moment he and I existed beyond the veil. But, just as brief as that moment came, it went. His authoritarian, take-take-take-and-only-give-when-its-to-his-advantage programming kicked in. I could see the change. He said, if it were up to him, and he decided to put my Mamas name on my list, under these exceptional circumstances, and he stressed exceptional circumstances, if I were to get a stay of execution, she would be taken back off the list.Sick.Because I saw he was thinking a bit too much, I asked him to set the meeting up with the Warden and allow me to be there with him. The Warden needs to hear the words from my heart, not the Majors words of suspicion and some obsessive desire to control.Back to my pod and cage.How was I going to tell him? I have known him for 9 years. 9 years! And now I have to tell him this. I sat at the foot of my bunk, leaning against the wall between Obie Weathers and me. The little loose metal bar that plugged the whole went all the way through the wall; I rattled to get his attention. I put my ear to it to hear his response. When he answered I began to tell him about everything that had happened. I managed to tell him that I was given a date for October 27th, as well as what he could do but from that point on my words slowly faded away as I slipped into the depths of an ocean of tears that I struggled to push back. And I drifted as my mind drifted back to the first moment I met Obie; my first day on the tank after wrongly being thrown into Bexar County jail for this horrible crime in 2001. Then, various experiences he and I had shared over the years, one after another flooded my mind. ..Suddenly I gasped, somehow able to push back the ocean of tears. I backed away from the wall to breathe and gain control.
Then my mind went back to where my mouth left off at. I didnt want to give him tears. They have had too many of my tears already. No! They werent going to get anymore! I was going to be strong. But I felt so weak. And Obie felt it. He said it. Its all just knocked the air out of me, I told him. But Im focused, I added as feeble as it may have sounded. Obie, its just so messed up.I know. Itsnightmarish. Its-itssurreal, he said.I know I have so many brothers around here watching what happens to me. I have preached to these brothers time and time again over the years to not give up on themselves despite how hopeless the situation seems; to fight for their lives; for their Humanity. And now this. I dont want this to reinforce their fears. I dont want them to say, See! Look at what happened to Reg.
It doesnt matter what you do, they still gonna kill you.(silence)I dont accept this date. Im not trying to hear it, Obie. Theyve got me messed up! With everything I am, EVERYTHING I AM, Im going to fight this. EVERYTHING I AM!After telling him I love him and that I had to get my things packed, I left the wall.The officers came back to the section. Lights came on. The gate popped. They brought the little cart to carry my belongings. And I thought to myself, so much for easing off the section.I didnt want anybody to know that I was going to death watch. I didnt even want anybody to know that I was even on death watch at all. The only thing I wanted them to know is that I got my life back. Not that they were about to take it away. It was all completely humiliating and sick all at the same time.My stuff was packed. I backed to the cage door to get handcuffed, took a deep cleansing breath and stepped into the run. Fighting back that ocean the whole way, I went down the run and woke Tony Medina up. I cringed at having to wake him to this. He came to the door rubbing his eyes. I told him that I was moving to Death Watch and that Ive got a date for Oct.27th. He looked at me and the only thing he said was, Thats fucked up.His neighbor was standing at the door, Juan Reynosa. You moving, man?Yeah, they gave me a date for Oct.27thAh man, thats fucked up! Man! Damnkeep ya head up.Aight ,man, aight, I said. Tears were beginning to breach the levees. A deep breath. I stepped on.Joseph Lave hollered at me from the other end of the run. What cell ya going to?14 cage, I reply.You know, thats my old cage!Joseph was just off of Death Watch and, for whatever reason, made it off.Yeah, I know. And Im trying to come back just like you did! I said.Already! he laughed. Ive been busy but Ill get with you.I was in front of Obies cage. We looked in each others eyes for a moment. I could tell he was taking measure of me. I let him. I wondered if he could see through me. I wondered if I was hiding what I truly felt as much as I thought I was.Youre ugly. he said. Though I was thinking you know damn well Im not ugly, I couldnt help but smile. Ill catch up with you, I said.Aight.As I was coming down the stairs, I hollered at another prisoner I knew I on the row.
And with a smile that smiled through his words, he said, Holler at me. I thought to myself, why is he smiling? Would he be the one who sends my wife flowers at my funeral to entice her into responding with a Thank you, so that he could respond and try to get her to write again? There are vultures like that around here.Ima holler at the whole world! I returned to him as I walked of the section.Another brother hollers at me from another section in Swahili. I tell him, October 27th!Ahhhhh man! he gave.And shut the door behind me.When I got to Death Watch the whole vibe was different. There are eight people over here right now. Im not saying that they were happy to see me. But it was like my company comforted them to some vague extent. A faint beam of light that found a thin layer of clouds; as thin as a layer of ice that this beam of sunlight stepped upon and fell through. All of this was mere layers of ice I had to work through. Underneath all this lied the iceburg: How? How can I tell my precious wife that her husband, her baby, that she hasnt even had the chance to properly and officially marry yet has an execution date? How can I tell my queen this? I want to just cry in her arms but I cannot even tell her like that. Im disgusted with the State for even putting me in this situation. How do I tell Mama that they have set the date to kill her baby? (Tears) The weight . God, the weight. I have to tell them. I hate to tell them. My God! I have to.
Baby, my precious baby, I love you with my soul. Baby, you know this. (Tears) They set a date for me to die. I despise this day, My Queen. I despise having to tell you this. I despise putting you through this. All I can say is that you are m Queen-Self and I vow to you that I will fight this fight with all that I have. I will not allow them to take me away from my Heaven: You, Queen. My life. My Heaven and my Life. I will have you, My Queen, I will.
Reginald Blanton © 2009