Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Troy Davis denied clemency

I am reminded of a story related by the late Michael Musmanno, the flamboyant, controversial, and brilliant Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice. In his dissenting opinion in Washington Park, Inc. Appeal, 425 Pa. 349 (1967), Justice Musmanno related the following, about one of the most famous injustices ever perpetrated by an American court:

"Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two workingmen in Massachusetts, were sentenced to death after a trial admittedly saturated with error. As one of the attorneys in the case I filed a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States. The date of execution was set for August 22, 1927. The Supreme Court was not to meet until the following October. A stay of execution was imperative if the Supreme Court was to pass on living litigation. I applied to the Chief Justice and two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, all of whom refused to grant the stay. I made application to the Governor of Massachusetts, he refused the stay. I turned to the President of the United States because by this time the Sacco-Vanzetti case had taken on international significance and the heads of many governments had indicated they feared a great injustice would result if the two doomed workingmen went to the electric chair with half of the world believing them innocent. The President declined to intervene.

"On August 22, 1927, the men, who were undoubtedly innocent, were executed. Two months later the Supreme Court met and one of the first items of its business was consideration of the pending petition for writ of certiorari, the one I had filed. The Court was formally advised that the petition was now moot because Sacco and Vanzetti were dead."

We will never be able to undo what is going to happen tomorrow.  "In the end, I am not concerned so much with whether or not Davis is guilty or innocent. I am concerned with the uncertainty of his guilt." http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/09/20/troy-davis-and-the-history-of-injustice-in-america/