Special Commentary From NACDL President Lisa Wayne

Friends –
I have little comment on last night’s Georgia execution because I know very little about death penalty representation or any of the facts in this executed person’s case.  In fact, I tried my best to keep my head stuck in the sand on this one. Let’s face it, I just don’t want to know more than I have to for fear of losing faith in our justice system. But when so many QUALIFIED authorities speak at the same time about the same case, all competent criminal defense attorneys have no choice but to listen.  The following is a letter from one of those qualified authorities.
So, to my criminal defense lawyer friends, prosecutor friends, and most importantly, my police officer friends, I share her brief letter for what it stands for.  Here it is..

Politics Killed Troy Davis Last Night

The death penalty is an emotional issue, of course. Strong feelings on both sides are genuine and understandable. What we know is, more than 75 percent of the death row inmates exonerated by DNA testing were convicted on the basis of eyewitness misidentification.

There was no DNA evidence in Troy Davis’ case. No murder weapon was ever found. What there was in the case was doubt, serious doubt, too much doubt to justify taking his life. Seven of the nine eyewitnesses in Mr. Davis’ case now say they were mistaken or pressured by police into identifying him. And a new witness has sworn that another individual, who was present at the crime scene, confessed to her long after the trial that he murdered Mark McPhail. Some of the jurors now say that had the new evidence been presented at his trial they would not have convicted Troy Davis or sentenced him to death.

But doubts were not enough to convince the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles in such a politically charged case. Politics killed Troy Davis just as surely as the lethal poison injected in his veins. Troy Davis went to the death chamber not for something he did, but for what he represents – a failed system driven more by emotion than facts. His death makes it clear to me that the only way to prevent the execution of an innocent person in Georgia, or anywhere, is to abolish the death penalty everywhere.