Monday, September 15, 2008

Legal but not Just

I remember the first time the concept of justice entered my conscious brain. About 1950 I had a child's storybook that my mother read to me: Little Black Sambo. My strongest memory is a drawing of a palm tree and the blur of tigers circling the tree and turning into butter as Sambo clung to the top of the tree. A caption said something to the effect "there is justice in the jungle after all".

Justice! A fairness, a counter balance that makes things right and correct. Justice may be a concept unique to humans among all animals.

Several years ago I came to the realization that "Department of Justice" is a misnomer. A more appropriate title would be "Department of Legalities". That which is legal is not by definition just.

Last week I received an email from the ACLU about the impending execution of Troy Davis.

"An African-American, Davis was convicted of the murder of off-duty Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail in 1991. No physical evidence links him to the crime, and he has steadfastly maintained his innocence. His conviction was based solely on the testimony of witnesses. There was no other evidence against him. And, since his trial, seven of those witnesses have recanted -- changing the story they told in court.

Some witnesses say they were coerced by police. Others have even signed affidavits implicating one of the remaining two witnesses as the actual killer. But due to an increasingly restrictive appeals process, none of this new evidence has ever been heard in court."

Last Friday the Georgia Department of Pardons and Paroles met to decide if Davis should be executed.

The Georgia pardons board has denied clemency for death row inmate Troy Davis, who was convicted of murdering a Savannah police officer.

Supporters of Davis, who is scheduled to be executed Sept. 23, say he should be granted a new trial because several witnesses who testified against him recanted their statements. They have called on the state to delay the execution until the Supreme Court discusses the case later this month.

The board did not give a reason for its decision to deny Davis clemency. (

I don't know if Davis is guilty or innocent but I do wonder why the execution wasn't postponed to give the Supreme Court an opportunity to review his conviction.

Sambo may have found justice in the jungle but I wonder if justice has been corrupted in the legal system. The Patriot Act and actions like this feed my cynicism.

cynic: "a faultfinding captious critic ; especially: one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest"

captious: "marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections"

Scary stuff!


Blogger Buffalo said...

Our justice system only pays lip service to justice. While I'm not naive enough to believe that everyone who claims to be innocent actually is innocent, there are those who have been erroneously convicted. Better a hundred go free than one innocent jailed. I believe that.

9/15/2008 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

The time has long past when the US should have joined the civilzed world and abolished the death penalty.

"Little Black Sambo" was a favourite if mine when I was a child. Sadly. it became politically incorrect. I never new, I was 17 before I ever came face to face with an African-Canadian. He was to become our much admired physics teacher..

Speaking of being politically incorrect, I remember the day one of the children on the street in the New Haven black community, where I lived began, "Eenie, meeenie minee moe catch . . . .(OH NO!) a tiger my the toe (Whew!).
Being the only white kid in the neighbourhood I had carefully instructed my son to never use the "N***** world. I wonder if the tiger comes from Little Black Sambo.

9/17/2008 08:37:00 AM  

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