I’m Embarrassed To Say I’m A Lawyer

Troy Davis was executed last night. All indications are that there is significant room for doubt as to his guilt. He was convicted solely on the basis of nine separate eyewitness testimonies, seven of which have retracted their testimony. Of the other two, one has remained completely silent since the trial, and the other is an odds-on favorite for the actual killer. This is what we knew, prior to injecting him with a life-taking chemical. If this is what we had known prior to his conviction, he would not have been convicted in a legal system that relies on a “reasonable doubt” standard. If there is no reasonable doubt in what we now know, then the words “reasonable” and “doubt” don’t mean what I learned in law school.

Troy Davis is not an isolated case. Black men are routinely executed in America on flimsy evidence, primarily because they are not considered equals to the rest of society. We’ve killed another nigger! Who cares?

I do.

I’m a lawyer, and this just makes me want to hand in my license. To think we, as a society, don’t have the ability or the compassion to delay an execution simply because it’s been scheduled as a matter of political expediency, on the oft chance that maybe we got it wrong the first time around, just causes me such despair for my country, and specifically the legal system I work in, that I want to give up. What is wrong with us that we rush headlong into blood-thirsty revenge, when there clearly is reason to put the brakes on? Why are there Americans who cheer when the topic of executions comes up? If that was your son or daughter being executed, would you be so quick to cheer? On the other side of the equation, if it was your son or daughter who was the victim of the crime, would you feel like you had obtained justice by executing an innocent man?

It doesn’t make sense either way for me. If there’s doubt of this magnitude, or any magnitude, how can we collectively live with ourselves? How do we sleep at night? He actually may be the killer, and perhaps he deserves to be executed. But do we know that for a fact given these recantations? I know the Federal court that heard the latest said that the new evidence was all smoke and mirrors. How does seven recantations comprise smoke and mirrors? Forget the smoke. Forget the mirrors. Put a microscope on it and figure it out. That’s what justice does. Isn’t he human enough to deserve a delay while we sort it out? Apparently not.

What really strikes my hypocrisy nerve with a direct hit is that the very people who cheer for this or any execution are also the same people who believe that government, all government, is not to be trusted, is in fact incompetent, and should be diminished in size and influence in America – except when it comes to executions. Then it makes no mistakes. Then it’s “Yo-Ho-Ho and a bottle of rum”, make ’em walk the plank!

Oh, and these supporters of an eye-for-an-eye also tend to be “pro-life” (a term which has little meaning in this context). Christianity didn’t seem to be able to apply its presumed, yet ineffective morality at times like this. Even the Pope was useless (one of the few times he and I agreed with each other – not that he’d care). Maybe Christians took heart in the born-again Christian stance Troy assumed during his ordeal with the criminal justice system? Perhaps they felt that it was better for him to meet his maker than waste the time trying to find justice for him here on earth. The five Catholics on the Supreme Court seemed to agree.

I hope I never have a case before the Supreme Court. I will find it hard to treat some of them with any respect.

17 thoughts on “I’m Embarrassed To Say I’m A Lawyer

  1. Black men are routinely executed in America on flimsy evidence, primarily because they are not considered equals to the rest of society.

    That, and the assumption that “Well, even if he isn’t guilty of that particular crime, he surely would have committed others.”

  2. First, you shouldn’t be embarassed to be a lawyer. Don’t forget that lawyers represented this guy up to the eleventh hour (quite literally) trying to halt this execution. That should actually make you quite proud.

    Second, the really telling statistic in terms of race is how much higher the percentage of death sentences is for African American defendants convicted specifically of murdering white people.

    • I remember hearing that statistic from as far back as the 70’s but I remembered it somewhat differently. I thought it was that the way race is a really a factor in death penalty cases is when the victim is a Caucasian – regardless of who the killer is.

      In other words, if you are white and are murdered, your death is taken as more significant by juries and judges than if you are a minority.

      I could be wrong. Like I said, it’s an old memory, not something I’ve recently read.

  3. The disproportionate amount of blacks executed and imprisoned is more of an economic issue, which is compounded by a ridiculously sad social program in this country exemplified by our pathetic educational system and our war on drugs (which should be renamed to “war on non-BigPharma drugs”). The lower classes need help to empower them to get out of the lower class, but refusing to educate them or provide adequate means to earn a living is asking for trouble, then you add how a 12 year old can make more than you, me and several others combined through a gang due to dealing illegal drugs and we’re fucked.

    The eye for an eye and the war on drugs have their roots in religion. The ‘do this or else’ vs trying to understand a situation and provide help is another thing that always seems to be associated with religiosity. When people argue for religion and claim it’s harmless, these things and more need to be pointed out. The religious love the buzzword “worldview”, usually to disparage non-believers, but look at the ramifications of a religious (doesn’t much matter which religion) worldview.

  4. This may be the most impassioned post you’ve ever written. I share your outrage at how easily our society shrugs off the probably unjust execution of yet another black man. We’re the USA, baby, and we’re #1!

    At incarceration and execution. Yup. It sure is good to live in a Christian Nation. Especially if you’re a black man.

    • Too often, we as Americans are quick to misunderstand and generalize everything and everybody. “Evangelical rightwinger” now equals Christian in America. Everyone, including those who think they are enlightened, are dumbed down by the American media. Everyone rigidly fits in one media labeled one-dimensional “box” or another.
      All Christians are THEM with no diversity. All Atheists are THEM with no heart. All whites are racists. All blacks are criminals. All Mexicans are illegals.
      We feel that we have a depth of perception about things, yet THEY are the stupids ones. Troy Davis “…embraced Christianity, despite what Christians were doing to him.” Of course that shows him to be a simplistic fool.

      Everyone has his/her political/social/religious agenda and they always assert their power at someone else’s expense.
      Go figure, indeed!

      • Of course that shows him to be a simplistic fool.

        Simplistic? No, he seemed to be somewhat complicated… but then complicated is a human trait, and he was anything if not human. Actually, your pithy analysis seems simplistic to me. ““Evangelical rightwinger” now equals Christian in America.” Get real.

        Fool? Yes. He embraces a religion for clearly self-comforting purposes, and I don’t fault that. When the weight of the state is brought to bear on you, and you are about to be killed, your life ended, you’ll grasp at straws. Anything that diminishes what the state is about to do to you. But Christianity? I’d venture to say that every single one of his “killers” was Christian. In that context, his choice was foolish.

      • Too often, we as Americans are quick to generalize based on a single action or utterance observed, which leads to misunderstanding and thus, misinformed responses. Witness what we hastily determine as incorrect and/or contrary to what we believe from someone and we slap on a THEM label.

        “Go figure” is an apropos phrase here, for taking time to consider the statement in context to avoid misunderstanding would be a good thing, or at least ask for clarification.

        I’ll just go ahead and state that faith is an indulgence, and one that I don’t care for and see as dangerous. I agree with SI that in light of the circumstances, you can understand his indulgence as a means towards a comforting escape from his horrid reality. I still don’t agree with it, but it’s understandable. What I took SI’s comment to be was an identification of irony, not a condemnation of the man as you hastily did. In fact, if you read the original post I think you’d find it hard to see SI condemning him in any way. So yes, go figure indeed! Good advice.

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