I spent part of last weekend reading the New Yorker and one of the features is about a man in Texas who was convicted of arson and of killing his three young children. By the time author David Grann describes the last day of Cameron Todd Willingham’s life, the day he was executed, the reader (i.e., me) is fairly well convinced of the convict’s innocence. So the details of Willingham’s last visit with his parents, his last meal, and his last words left me wiping away tears. I just can’t imagine being in that person’s shoes: knowing you are innocent, having already lost your loved ones in a tragic house fire, yet being forced down a death plank of your own. It left me wondering, yet again, in this country, where we know all too well how broken our justice system is, why anyone thinks it makes sense any sense to impose the death penalty? An innocent man was killed by lethal injection at the hands of the state. How much more savage could our system be?
Fortunately, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens recognized the inhumane procedures that could have sent another innocent person to the death chamber, so on August 17, during their summer recess, the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution and ordered the Federal court in Georgia to hold an evidentiary hearing for Troy Davis. That was the first time in fifty years the SCOTUS has done such a thing. Maybe after years of proving that the justice system in this country actually is fallible, supreme conscious is finally starting to kick in. Well, for three of our high court justices anyway. Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented, arguing that the governors should be responsible for clemency of death row inmates.
For more information about Nina Morrison and the Innocence Project — and to find out what other cases are pending, go to their web site, InnocenceProject.org
Likewise, for information about Stephen Bright and the Southern Center for Human Rights, see their website, SCHR.org