Intellectual Disability, Mercy And Georgia’s Death Penalty

warren hill

Warren Hill is scheduled for execution July 18

Georgia was the first state in the U.S. to ban the execution of persons with intellectual disabilities (known then as the “mentally retarded”), passing a law in 1988. That was 14 years before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the practice nationwide in 2002.  But on July 18, Georgia is scheduled to execute Warren Hill despite the fact that a state judge declared him to be “mentally retarded” by a “preponderance of the evidence”.

As this New York Times editorial points out, Hill still faces execution because Georgia is the only state that requires a prisoner to establish his intellectual disabilities “beyond a reasonable doubt” – an extraordinarily high standard.  Other states have more realistic requirements like the aforementioned “preponderance of the evidence” standard.

The courts have been unable to address this situation in which Georgia seems to be lurching inexorably towards an unconstitutional execution.  But the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles can still step in, uphold justice, and exercise mercy where the judiciary has fallen short.

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Giving Thanks for a Sister and Prophet: Martina Davis Correia

Martina Davis Correia

Martina Davis Correia

Our friend and fellow warrior for human rights, Martina Davis Correia, has passed on.  She stopped breathing at about 6:28pm on December 1st in Savannah, Georgia while I stood near her hospital bed along with family and friends.  She passed in peace, though she endured a painful struggle following the failure of a liver that had taken a severe beating in the course of a decade’s worth of cancer treatments.

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Will Georgia Kill Again Despite Doubts?

Update Oct 4: A stay of execution has been granted to Marcus Ray Johnson. Superior Court Judge Willie Lockette has ordered that DNA evidence found last week by Albany police be evaluated. He will hold a follow up hearing in February, 2012.

Georgia is scheduled to execute Marcus Ray Johnson on Wednesday, October 5. This date appeared on the calendar the morning after the Peach State put Troy Davis to death despite unresolved doubts about his guilt.

As in the Troy Davis case, there is no physical evidence linking Johnson to the 1994 murder in Albany, Ga., of Angela Sizemore.  According to Johnson’s lawyers, his case was built on eyewitness testimony from individuals who did not even witness the crime but only placed Johnson with the victim in the hours before the murder.

Expert testimony about the problems with eyewitness identification evidence was not allowed at Johnson’s trial. According to the Innocence Project, 75 percent of wrongful convictions discovered by DNA testing have involved faulty witness identifications.

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All Executions Are Wrong

The morning after Troy Davis was executed, the state of Georgia set another execution date.  Marcus Ray Johnson is slated to be put to death on October 5.  The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles should hear from us (fax: 404-651-6670;  email: [email protected]) about this case too, because all executions are wrong.

Even if there are no doubts about guilt (as there was in the case with Troy Davis, and as there is in the case with Reggie Clemons), even if there are no horrifying mitigating circumstances (like the ones that led Ohio’s Governor John Kacich to commute another death sentence), and even if the crime is particularly heinous (as was the case with the execution last week of Lawrence Brewer in Texas) the deliberate putting to death of a human being is not justice and is a fundamental violation of basic human rights.

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Georgia Kills Troy Davis

After a tense delay of more than 4 hours, the state of Georgia has just killed Troy Anthony Davis.

My heart is heavy.  I am sad and angry.  Georgia’s criminal justice system behaved with the viciousness of a defective machine, relentlessly pursuing his death while ignoring the doubts about his guilt that were obvious to the rest of the world.

Tonight we witnessed an abuse of power that exposed a justice system devoid of humanity, a dysfunctional destructive force in denial about its own deeply embedded flaws.

We could not ultimately stop Georgia’s machinery of death in this case, but the groundswell of activism Troy Davis has generated proves that people are hungry for a better system of justice.  This will be his legacy.  We will fight for a system of justice with more humanity, that accepts the possibility of mistakes, errors, and doubts.  A system of justice that believes that innocence matters.  A system of justice with more justice.

Let’s take a moment to honor the life of Troy Davis and Mark MacPhail. Then, let’s take all of our difficult feelings and re-double our commitment to the abolition of the death penalty.

not in my namePlease take this Pledge, and commit to working for abolition in your community, in your state, in your country, and in the world.

Tonight we mourn … tomorrow we organize!

Resisting Troy's Planned Execution with Every Moment Left

We are going into a difficult day. Today the state of Georgia is gearing up to execute Troy Davis. However, we have not been sitting quietly by here in Atlanta and everywhere worldwide.

When I learned the stunning news Tuesday morning, I paused for a moment to absorb the gravity of the two-word text message I had just read: “Clemency Denied.” But there was no time for reflection; we called for a “Day of Protest” and called on everyone with the power to act to do so. Around 700 people last night on the capitol steps for an energetic protest, chanting “Not in my name!”

Today is a “Day of Vigil.” We encourage you to make it known that you will not passively accept Georgia’s planned killing of Troy Davis at 7pm. Wear a black armband and write “Not in my name!” on it. Tell people about Troy Davis and why we must abolish the death penalty. If we have not managed to stop the execution by 6pm, gather with others in vigil.

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Not In Our Name: Georgia Must Not Execute Troy Davis

Troy Davis too much doubtOutrageous.  Simply outrageous.

Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles has rejected Troy Davis’ clemency petition.  He faces execution on Wed., Sept. 21 at 7 pm EDT.  We do not accept this decision and we will not quietly sit by.  Join us by taking more action:  demand that the Board reconsider its decision and demand that Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm seek a withdrawal of the death warrant and support clemency himself.

This appalling decision renders meaningless the Board’s 2007 vow to not permit an execution unless there is “no doubt” about guilt.  The Troy Davis case is riddled with doubt. Most of the witnesses who testified against him have recanted, while others have pointed to an alternate suspect as the real killer.

Nearly a million supporters of human rights and justice have called for clemency in this case, so far.  They believed in the common-sense notion that you should not execute someone when you can’t be sure they are guilty.

Death penalty supporters like Bob Barr, former Texas Governor Mark White,  and former FBI Director William Sessions also support clemency in this case, for the same reason.  And at least three jurors from Davis’ trial have asked for his execution to be called off. Putting Troy Davis to death would be a grave injustice to those jurors who believe they sentenced Davis to death based on questionable information.

The Board chose to ignore this huge number and wide range of voices, so we must raise our voices even more.  Demand that Georgia authorities Stop This Execution.

Georgians Raise Voices For Troy Davis, Thousands Back Them Up

Thousands came out for Troy Davis in Atlanta on September 16th

About 3,500 people marched and prayed for Troy Davis in Atlanta last night.  Three busloads of supporters arrived from Davis’ hometown of Savannah along with other buses from Columbus and Rome, Georgia.

Ebenezer Baptist Church could not accommodate about half the supporters who arrived for the prayer service led by Rev. Raphael Warnock of Dr. King’s historic church.  So an impromptu rally took place outside the church, while death row exonerees, a murder victim family member, Georgia clergy and nationally prominent human rights leaders, such as our Executive Director Larry Cox and that of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous spoke inside.  The march was an amazing sight to see – a sea of signs declaring “Too Much Doubt” and “Stop the Execution” held by a diversity of individuals and groups.

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Troy Davis: Hundreds of Thousands Acting, More Action Needed

troy davis petitions

Amnesty staff and coalition partners deliver 650,000 petition signatures to the Georgia Office of Pardons and Paroles on September 15th.

There are hundreds of solidarity events in the works and hundreds of thousands of petition signatures delivered for Troy Davis.

But while the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is hearing from the more than half a million of us who support Troy Davis, there is one other person, Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm, who can prevent this execution.

D.A. Chisolm can at any time seek to have the current death warrant withdrawn, and he can, instead of opposing, support Troy Davis’ petition for clemency.  And he should do so without delay.

Send a message to D.A. Chisolm right away.