Just two days after black inmate Troy Davis was executed, the Georgia Board of Pardons commuted the death sentence of white inmate David Crowe to life imprisonment.
Let's see: Crowe is white, Davis was black; Crowe admits he killed his former employer in the course of robbing his store that ended with Crowe shooting the guy three times, beating the man with a can of paint and bludgeoning him with a crowbar. Davis supposedly shot a security guard who happened to be an off-duty policeman. There was no physical evidence connecting Davis to his purported crime and almost every eye witness subsequently recanted their testimony, many saying they had been pressured by the cops into fingering Davis. Thousands of intervenors, from the Pope to Jimmy Carter, pleaded that Davis' life be spared. Davis maintained his innocence to his death.
When you compare the execution of Troy Davis to the commutation of David Crowe it becomes apparent the only thing the State of Georgia overlooked was the lynching.
Meanwhile, in other death penalty news, Texas has decided it will no longer off the condemned a "last meal." Apparently malevolent swine James Brewer ordered a feast and then went to his maker on Wednesday without taking so much as a bite.
Are you aware that two of the five members of Georgia's Board of Pardons are black?
I assume those were the two who wanted to commute Davis' execution?
Where did you see that? The Board refused to divulge its deliberations or votes. BTW, one of the black members is the Chair.
I don't know what happened, but perhaps Canadian bloggers shouldn't be quite so quick to just assume today's South can be viewed through To Kill a Mockingbird.
So, Peter, how do you explain the apparent contradiction? The white guy just got lucky?
As far as I can figure out, there have been two death sentence commutations in Georgia in the past ten or so years. One was black, one was white. This among dozens of executions of both races. Now the whites are ahead in commutations 2-1. What momentous conclusions about the Georgian legal and penal systems am I supposed to just assume from that, other than it appears to be damn tough for anyone in Georgia to have their death sentence commuted?
Peter, the information that two of the board sided with Davis came from his counsel after the final hearing. In response to your last comment, how many convicted white murderers receive the death penalty compared to convicted black murderers? One of the great arguments against the death penalty is the widely disproportionate rate at which black murderers are put to death.
That is true, and it is a good argument. But your post went quite a bit beyond that in its somewhat inflammatory implication. Aboriginal peoples are over-represented in Canadian prisons. How would you react to an American who claimed the only thing the Canadian judiciary seems to have overlooked is the smallpox blankets?
And, no, you aren't going to trap me into asserting racism in the American South is now just a historical memory.
How would I react? I suppose that would depend on whether Canada regressed to the point of reinstating the death penalty.
From what I know, I think our aboriginals aren't particularly given to homicide. Even our white folks seem to be losing their knack for it.
From what I know, I think our aboriginals aren't particularly given to homicide
I'm afraid the stats don't seem to support you there.
That's quite interesting, Peter. Thank you. I had no idea of the homicide stats perhaps, I suppose, because much of the killings are on reserves well removed from urban areas.
Not sure about that. I think it may also explain why Prairie cities like Regina and Winnipeg have such comparatively high homicide rates.
Anyway, a very bad scene, and good reason for Canadians to be a little circumspect about throwing out accusations at others. Whatever the underlying reasons, I don't think anyone could plausibly deny that blacks in the States, like Canadian aboriginals, commit proportionately more crimes.
Wrong wrong wrong. I think it might be more plausible to postulate that more blacks and aboriginals live in poverty, have less legal capable representation and are more often targeted by law enforcement though. The whiter and more wealthy you are, the less likely you'll ever spend time in the hoosegow.
I can't entirely agree with you, DN, but your point has merit. From my practising days I can confirm, unequivocally, that one gets only as much justice as one can afford. The best counsel cost the most money and they, in turn, deliver the best experts, the best research, the most effective representation. The poor, if they have representation at all, tend to get overworked, underpaid legal aid counsel.
And then there is crime and there is crime. Waging pre-emptive war on trumped up pretexts is a horrible crime, a crime against humanity, and one that has taken scores of thousands of innocent lives. Yet the individuals who initiated that carnage never get brought to justice. Curious, eh?
Peter suggests we be a bit circumspect about criticizing others. I disagree. Capital punishment is rank barbarism and places the United States in some pretty awful company. And, besides, has there ever been a nation less reticent or circumspect about criticizing any and all other nations than the United States of America along with its leaders and its people? Hardly.
"Wrong wrong wrong. I think it might be more plausible to postulate that more blacks and aboriginals live in poverty, have less legal capable representation and are more often targeted by law enforcement though. The whiter and more wealthy you are, the less likely you'll ever spend time in the hoosegow."
I totally agree with double nickel. First of all there is a disproportional consideration when comparing Regina and Winnipeg murder rates involving Aboriginal people with those of other cities since the population densities are so very different. Relying on such statistics without factoring variables makes it sound like Aboriginal people are on average far more violent than the rest of Canadians.
I live in Winnipeg, in fact in some of the more crime intense areas since moving here, and I can say without a doubt that poverty and street life are what make it dangerous. I never saw as much homelessness and poverty in downtown areas of Ottawa, where I am from, so it took awhile to get used to avoiding walking alone after dark and letting having to put my guard up in general. But I don't live in dread and I was kind of foolish to live so naively before. As a woman, no matter how "clean" a neighbourhood seems, we do take a risk walking alone in the dark.
I guess in my roundabout way, criminal behaviour is not limited to the poor, mentally ill, Blacks or Natives. Far from it. They are the most likely to be caught and imprisoned. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of very respectable white men get away with rape on a daily basis.
Hundreds of thousands?
I sometimes wonder whether, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden and first became bored, they amused themselves with a lively debate on whether crime was caused by poverty or just correlated with it. C'mon we can do better than just hauling out tired shibboleths.
Peter, I don't think this whole death penalty issue gets beyond the plainly disproportion in imposition in the death penalty between white and blacks convicted of murder. Juries, it appears, don't want to see white convicted killers put to death but have fewer qualms when the killer is black. That these cases most commonly occur in the Deep South or slave states is, I suppose, simply coincidental? Any racial taint to capital punishment transforms execution into state imposed murder. Unless and until you can get out from under that point, the rest of these arguments are rhetorical at best.
Why do I have to get out from under anything? If anything, I'm a lukewarm anti, but my objections have more to do with legal corruption and the politicizing of capital punishment than they do with it being an expression of Jim Crow. Yes, blacks are executed in a proportion much higher than their numbers, but as I was trying to show above, that's also true about every kind of conviction and sentence for violent crime, just as it is with Canadian aboriginal peoples. I understand why that is an emotional pull for abolitionists, but what you have to get out from under is why it's a compelling argument for abolishing the death penalty but not for abolishing life sentences of hard time, or even prisons altogether.
That quip about slave states was cute, and I shall remember to refer to "the feudal states" in my future writings on Europe. If you are going to write about the American South today, where almost all executions occur, can you maybe keep the following in mind:
A)Just under half of American blacks support the death penalty. That's a national figure that I suspect may be higher in the South;
B) 35% of executions since 1976 were of blacks. 56% were of whites;
C) slightly more whites than blacks have been executed for interracial murder;
D) blacks were well-represented on many of those those juries you complain of.
Peter, this is from the editorial in today's New York Times.
"...two-thirds of all those sentenced to death since 1976 have been in five Southern states where “vigilante values” persist, according to the legal scholar Franklin Zimring. Racism continues to infect the system, as study after study has found in the past three decades.
"The problems go on: Many defendants in capital cases are too poor to afford legal counsel. Many of the lawyers assigned to represent them are poorly equipped for the job. A major study done for the Senate Judiciary Committee found that “egregiously incompetent defense lawyering” accounted for about two-fifths of the errors in capital cases. Apart from the issue of counsel, these cases are more expensive at every stage of the criminal process than noncapital cases.
"Politics also permeates the death penalty, adding to chances of arbitrary administration. Most prosecutors in jurisdictions with the penalty are elected and control the decision to seek the punishment. Within the same state, differing politics from county to county have led to huge disparities in use of the penalty, when the crime rates and demographics were similar. This has been true in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas and many other states.
"So far, under this horrifying system, 17 innocent people sentenced to death have been exonerated and released based on DNA evidence, and 112 other people based on other evidence. All but a few developed nations have abolished the death penalty. It is time Americans acknowledged that the death penalty cannot be made to comply with the Constitution and is in every way indefensible."
We lawyers have a phrase for this, "res ipsa loquitor."
As for Europe and feudalism, it strikes me that your nation is the one drifting back into feudal traits, not Europe. Your "bought and paid for" Congress heralds the ascent of your corporatist oligarchy. Good luck with that.
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