First Lady Michelle Obama hosts a student workshop called “At The Crossroads: A History Of The Blues In America” at the White House. On stage with Obama are (L-R) musicians Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Shemekia Copeland and Keb Mo. The event is being held in recognition of Black History Month as part of the “In Performance at the White House” series.
This morning, six retired corrections officials, including Dr. Allen Ault, retired Director of the Georgia Department of Corrections and former Warden of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison where he oversaw executions for the state, have sent the following letter to Georgia Corrections Officials and Governor Nathan Deal asking them to urge the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconsider the decision they made on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 to deny Troy Davis Clemency despite concerns about his guilt.
We write to you as former wardens and corrections officials who have had direct involvement in executions. Like few others in this country, we understand that you have a job to do in carrying out the lawful orders of the judiciary. We also understand, from our own personal experiences, the awful lifelong repercussions that come from participating in the execution of prisoners. While most of the prisoners whose executions we participated in accepted responsibility for the crimes for which they were punished, some of us have also executed prisoners who maintained their innocence until the end. It is those cases that are most haunting to an executioner.
We write to you today with the overwhelming concern that an innocent person could be executed in Georgia tonight. We know the legal process has exhausted itself in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, and yet, doubt about his guilt remains. This very fact will have an irreversible and damaging impact on your staff. Many people of significant standing share these concerns, including, notably, William Sessions, Director of the FBI under President Ronald Reagan.
Living with the nightmares is something that we know from experience. No one has the right to ask a public servant to take on a lifelong sentence of nagging doubt, and for some of us, shame and guilt. Should our justice system be causing so much harm to so many people when there is an alternative?
We urge you to ask the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to reconsider their decision. Should that fail, we urge you to unburden yourselves and your staff from the pain of participating in such a questionable execution to the extent possible by allowing any personnel so inclined to opt-out of activities related to the execution of Troy Anthony Davis. Further, we urge you to provide appropriate counseling to personnel who do choose to perform their job functions related to the execution. If we may be of assistance to you moving forward, please do not hesitate to call upon any of us.
Respectfully and collegially,
Allen Ault – Retired Warden, Georgia Diagnostic & Classifications Prison
Terry Collins – Retired Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
Ron McAndrew – Retired Warden, Florida State Prison
Dennis O’Neill – Retired Warden, Florida State Prison
Reginald Wilkinson – Retired Director, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
Jeanne Woodford – Retired Warden, San Quentin State Prison
Steve Benen: Michael Moore had an item this afternoon about the looming Troy Davis execution:
“President Obama: Can’t you do like Kennedy & send in federal troops to stop this injustice in Georgia? The buck stops with u.”
… I can appreciate why it might seem as if the buck always stops with a president, but in the Davis case, it’s not Obama’s call.
When presidents during the civil rights era ordered federal troops into the South, they were enforcing federal law. Eisenhower and JFK clearly had the authority to act …. Obama doesn’t have the authority to “send in federal troops” to stop the execution.
….. presidential clemency isn’t an option here ….. he has no legal authority to get involved, officially, with a state execution. When the death penalty is imposed for a state crime like murder, it is a state issue.
LA Times: The U.S. Supreme Court stopped Texas officials Thursday evening from executing a Houston murderer who was sentenced to die after jurors were told he posed a greater danger to public safety because he was black.
The justices acted on an emergency appeal after Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state judges refused to intervene.
… Duane Edward Buck, a 48-year-old auto mechanic, was sentenced to die for the 1995 shootings of an ex-girlfriend and another man. His attorneys did not dispute his guilt but argued that prosecutors should not have used his race to argue for a death sentence.
… Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst did not respond to pleas urging them to grant Buck a 30-day reprieve. Perry, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, was campaigning in Iowa on Thursday, leaving Dewhurst to preside over the execution….
…. Last week, Perry said during a GOP presidential debate that he “never struggled” over the death penalty because “the state of Texas has a very thoughtful, very clear process in place.” During Perry’s 11 years in office, the state has carried out 235 executions.
The sentencing dispute arose because of an unusual provision in Texas’ death penalty law. Jurors were required to weigh whether a convicted murderer would pose a future danger if he were sentenced to life in prison rather than death. In a series of cases, Dr. Walter Quijano, a psychologist, testified that blacks posed a greater risk of “future dangerousness” than whites…..
“This case illustrates the deep flaws in the application of the death penalty in this country. Executing Troy Davis without a real examination of potentially exonerating evidence risks taking the life of an innocent man and would be a grave miscarriage of justice. The citizens of Georgia should demand the highest standards of proof when our legal system condemns on our behalf a man or woman to die.”