Viewer comment prompts further elaboration of my logic for acquitting Georgia death-row inmate, Troy Davis; or at least granting him a new trial.
1. The logical parallel between the judicial disposition of Troy Davis by the U.S. Supreme Court on the one hand; and the French handling of Red Brigade terrorist, Marina Petrella, on the other; is their different applications of the rule of law.
2. It may be helpful to think of the rule of law using a “formula”: Statutes, treaties and presidential proclamations (within a constitutional framework) plus a specific set of facts equals a particular outcome.
Law + Facts = Outcome
In Davis’ case, the Georgia murder statute plus eyewitness identifications resulted in imposition of the death penalty. But seven of the nine eyewitnesses who identified Davis at trial later claimed their testimony was false.[i] One of the two remaining eyewitnesses is suspected of being the actual killer. Some eyewitnesses who retracted their trial statements claimed to have been pressured to testify falsely.
The change in Davis’ “formula” for conviction is that most eyewitness accounts that had supported his conviction at trial were later withdrawn as untrue. This is a substantial and material change. Indeed, there is so great a difference between having nine people who view a crime and having only one or two observers that the change might affect the outcome; especially in a case without DNA or other corroborative evidence. The Davis formula has been rendered incomplete, because now there is a strong possibility that facts sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt do not exist.
In the case of Marina Petrella, a French blanket amnesty offer was accepted by her when she traveled to France and avoided further misconduct. The facts regarding Petrella’s terrorist conduct and travel to France have not changed, and the law portion of her “formula” granted amnesty when she crossed the border and committed no further violations of law. Her formula was, in layman’s terms, a “done deal”. Although France revoked the blanket amnesty after Petrella had accepted it; her settlement outcome was already “locked in”. The Government of France had to respect the bargain it made with Petrella – just as private parties honor contracts – because doing so was consistent with France’s adherence to the rule of law.
In both cases, Davis and Petrella, when the formula for imposition of the rule of law is rendered incomplete by elimination of one element or another – or is rendered complete by acceptance of a unilateral offer, then the “outcome” applies when the formula is completed, (Petrella); or does not apply when the formula loses an essential element, (Davis).
The incomplete formula in Davis means Davis should not be executed by the State of Georgia. The completed formula in Petrella – means she should not be extradited to Italy.
3. My blog against executing Troy Davis is a legal argument that is not based on religious or moral grounds.
4. If DNA evidence first appearing after trial can be utilized to set a conviction aside; then the wholesale discrediting of testimonial facts that supported a conviction should be capable of attaining the same result.
5. It is inconsistent with principles of logic, fairness, and the rule of law to impose capital punishment after inculpatory evidence has been mostly discredited; and the small amount of remaining uncorroborated evidence may not even be enough to convict the defendant of the crime.
[i] Testifying falsely is perjury; and morally indefensible when it costs the life of another person. It is illogical and unfair that Troy Davis be punished by death as a result of witnesses lying at his trial, particularly if – as may be the case — he is innocent of the crime.