Tasty Tidbits 9/22/11

  1. A different twist on the death penalty.
  2. Dept. of Homeland Delusion.
  3. Against Justice.

1

Reading coverage of the impending, and now accomplished, execution of Troy Davis in Georgia, I realized how easy it is to demagogue the issue from the pro-death penalty side: just talk about all the appeals the guy has had, pretending that an appeal is a fresh assessment of actual guilt.

<LawyerMode>An appeal is not a second look at guilt or innocence. An appeal is a second look at whether the T’s were crossed and the I’s dotted, and in my state there’s way too much appellate invocation of “harmless error” for my taste when these things don’t happen. One will occasionally read the legalese equivalent of “you’re entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect one.”

I can’t entirely blame them, since perfect trials are vanishingly rare. But in my book, the power and budget of prosecutors compared to the meager resources made available to Public Defenders suggests that even fair trials aren’t all that common.</LawyerMode>

By the power and budget standard, when did we last see a fair trial? OJ Simpson? “Not guilty.”

Believe me, a lot of guys with less evidence against them than there was against OJ, but with lower defense budgets, are rotting in prison now.

I’m aware that people opposed in principle to the death penalty (I’m not; I’m just incorrigibly skeptical that our system reliably determines guilt) will swarm a case like Troy Davis and kick up lots and lots of dust. But there’s plenty of people who are culpably  naïve about the adequacy of our legal system at determining guilt or innocence, especially when <LawyerMode>prosecutors are elected, and play tough – even dirty – rather than serving justice scruplously.</LawyerMode>

I haven’t read it, but a lead at Mirror of Justice suggests that this article by Will Baude may be enlightening on the topic of what appeals do and don’t do.

2

Remember. They only hate us because we’re good and free.

3

Poet Scott Cairns writes against Justice at the Huffington Post. “…For one, justice requires that everyone receives his due, and I am not especially eager to receive mine….”

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Bon appetit!