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Supreme Court Rejects Stay of Execution for Troy Davis | The Nation

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Richard Kim

Richard Kim

 Short takes on politics, culture and life.

Supreme Court Rejects Stay of Execution for Troy Davis

11:08 pm: Time of death for Troy Anthony Davis, 42.

Donate $11.08—or more—in his name to the Innocence Project or to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty or to Amnesty International.

10:43 pm: The Supreme Court issued a one-sentence statement denying Troy Davis’s stay of execution. It read, “The application for stay of execution of death presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Earlier today, Troy Davis issued this statement:

“The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath. Georgia is prepared to snuff out the life of an innocent man.”

10:21 pm: Democracy Now! is reporting that the Supreme Court has refused to stay the execution of Troy Davis. They also report that there were no dissents on this decision.

There is silence and great sadness outside of the prison where Davis is set to be killed for a crime witnesses now say he did not commit. There is great sadness across the world.

10:12 pm: Liliana Segura wrote about Georgia's cruel and unusual use of sodium thiopental to kill Emmanuel Hammond in January of this year. Hammond received a brief reprieve from Justice Thomas, just like Troy Davis has tonight. Nonetheless, he was executed four hours and thirty-nine minutes after his scheduled 7 pm execution. Her article is a must-read now. 

In July on her blog, Segura wrote about why Georgia videotaped the execution of Andrew DeYoung, the last person executed by the state of Georgia and the first person whose execution was captured on videotape since a gas chamber killing in California in 1992. Georgia switched to using pentobarbitol with DeYoung, and the video was intended to determine if there was evidence of "pain and suffering." Pentobarbitol is one of the drugs that would be used to execute Troy Davis. 

9:35 pm: As we wait for more news on what's happening inside the Supreme Court, here’s the last report on what we know about Justice John Roberts from Nation web editor Emily Douglas:

In confirmation hearings, Chief Justice Roberts suggested that capital cases require utmost scrutiny, and that any new DNA evidence that emerges requires close attention.  “No one wants an innocent person executed, period. And the availability of that type of evidence, that opportunity in some cases I think is something that's a very significant development in the law,” he told Senator Dick Durbin. (There is no physical evidence tying Troy Davis to the murder of Mark MacPhail.)  However, as chief justice, Roberts wrote in an opinion upholding lethal injection as constitutional. During Roberts’s years as chief justice, writes Kenneth Haas in the Pierce Law Review, the Court “has loosened the standards for evaluating the competence of capital defense attorneys, strengthened the hands of capital prosecutors, and upheld strict and constitutionally vulnerable statutory and procedural roadblocks to the appellate review of capital sentences.”

9:24  pm:  Here's what we know about Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas—the conservative faction of the Supreme Court. While Thomas did recently intervene in a death penalty case, granting a brief reprieve to Emmanuel Hammond, on the whole Thomas supports the capital punishment, even in the case of a mentally retarded person (he joined Rehnquist and Scalia in their dissent in Atkins v. Virginia, which found that executing a mentally retarded person violates the Eighth Amendment). 

Alito’s opinions in capital cases, wrote Goodwin Liu and Lynsay Skiba in an American Constitution Society report prior to Alito’s confirmation, “show a disturbing tendency to tolerate serious errors in capital proceedings.” During his confirmation hearings, Senator Diane Feinstein questioned him on a death penalty case in which he ruled against a defendant who claimed that “his attorneys had failed to do an adequate investigation to prepared for his sentencing hearing.” The Supreme Court overruled Alito’s decision. Once on the Court, he joined Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia in overruling a Kansas Supreme Court decision that found that a Kansas law saying that “juries should impose death sentences if aggravating evidence of a crime's brutality and mitigating factors explaining a defendant's actions are equal in weight” unconstitutional.

As for Justice Scalia—this headline says it all. 

Nation web editor Emily Douglas and Nation interns are here contributing to these updates. So hats off to them.

9:19 pm:  According to Twitter accounts, there are crowds gathering outside the Supreme Court to demonstrate against the death penalty and plead for Troy Davis's life. The Court is not immune to public opinion, as the swing it has taken on gay rights issues demonstrates. If you are in Washington, please add your voice to those already outside the Supreme Court.

9:03 pm : If the whole court is reviewing the case, Justice Kennedy may be holding Troy Davis' life in his hands. His record on the death penalty is mixed. In 2005, Kennedy joined a 5-4 majority in banning the use of the death penalty on minors—making the United States the last country on earth to ban the state killing of children. In 1989, Justice Kennedy voted with a 5-4 majority (Stanford v. Kentucky) to uphold the death penalty for minors in his first year on the court. Sixteen years later, he changed his mind in Roper v. Simmons. As of 2005, Kennedy still appeared to be pro–death penalty. In his opinion, Kennedy wrote that "It [18] is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest." 

Nonetheless, his opinion is evolving. We hope.

8:43 pm: Interesting background—in January 26, 2011, Emmanuel Hammond, also a prisoner in Georgia’s Jackson prison, was granted a temporary reprieve by Justice Thomas, who has issued the reprieve in Troy Davis’s case. Hammond was scheduled to be executed at 7 pm. He was put to death a little over four hours later at 11:39 pm. This is sobering news, and we should not necessarily expect Davis to live through the night.

8:40 pm: The mother of officer Mark MacPhail has told media outlets that she has been told that Troy Davis will not be executed until 8:30 pm at the soonest, pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. It’s 8:40.

8:35 pm: Troy Davis is still alive, and Democracy Now! is still reporting live from outside Jackson, Georgia. 

Another Obama appointee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, has a mixed and indeterminate record on the death penalty. In the one DP case she heard before becoming a Supreme Court justice, according to the NYT, she “never ruled on the merits of the death penalty, even though her remarks made clear that she was unlikely to find it unconstitutional.”

That said, Sotomoyor’s first vote on the Supreme Court was to vote with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer and Stevens in an unsuccessful attempt to grant a stay of execution in the case of Jason Getsy, condemned to die by Ohio. Jason Getsy was killed by Ohio on August 18, 2009.

8:20 pm: Ben Jealous now is also reporting to Amy Goodman that Justice Thomas brought the appeal before the court and could be trying to craft a consensus of 4-5 justices to stay Davis’s execution.

Meanwhile, here’s Obama appointee Justice Elena Kagan on the death penalty:

“I am fully prepared to argue, consistent with Supreme Court precedents, that the death penalty is constitutional. As Solicitor General, I would represent the interests of the United States, as expressed in legislation and executive policy. Like other nominees to the Solicitor General position, I have refrained from providing my personal opinions (except where I previously have disclosed them), both because these opinions will play no part in my official decisions and because such statements of opinion might be used to undermine the interests of the United States in litigation. But I can say that nothing about my personal views regarding the death penalty (relating either to policy or law) would make it difficult for me to carry out the Solicitor General’s responsibilities in this area.”

8:12 pm: Interesting quote from Justice Ginsburg from a September 19, 2011, interview with ABC News. One might expect Ginsburg to argue with the Court’s right wing as they take up Davis’s application. Could this case actually bring forward the constitutionality of the death penalty as a whole? 

Death penalty decisions, she said, are a “dreadful part of the business.”

Asked by the moderator if she had one thing she’d like to accomplish before leaving the bench, she said, “I probably would go back to the day when the Supreme Court said that the death penalty cannot be administered with an even hand,” noting that such an opportunity is unlikely to arrive.

8:08 pm: And the hateful Ann Coulter weighs in on Twitter. This is what it looks like to be “pro-life without exception”: “@AnnCoulter: ONE TROY DAVIS FLAME-BROILED, PLEASE -

8:02 pm: Andrew Cohen, chief legal analyst for CBS News, just tweeted this: “What’s happened. Justice Thomas (11th Circuit justice) got #TroyDavis appeal and sent it to his 8 colleagues. They are now discussing.”

7:56 pm: While we’re waiting for more information on what a reprieve means and what the basis of Davis’s application for a stay is—read David Grann’s extraordinary account of the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man executed by Rick Perry’s Texas. 

7:38 pm: Sad news, Lawrence Brewer was executed by Texas at 7:21 pm, just minutes after Troy Davis heard of his reprieve. Brewer was the white supremecist who dragged James Byrd to his death in 1998. You can read Greg Mitchell’s account of the case here. One of the moving things about this case is that Byrd’s only son Ross pleaded to save Brewer’s life, even though Brewer was unrepentent about the crime.

7:35 pm: According to ABC News, the Supreme Court could decide anytime from between tonight to seven days from now whether or not to allow the execution of Davis. The Court posts its orders here. The Democracy Now! coverage is remarkable, and it’s just as remarkable—and appalling—that other news media aren’t there. Watch the DN coverage below or at this link

7:23 pm: Troy Davis, sentenced to die by lethal injection at 7 pm tonight, has apparently been granted a temporary reprieve by the US Supreme Court. According to the AP, Davis filed an eleventh-hour plea to the Court today.

Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman is reporting live outside of the prison where Davis was scheduled to be killed. Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, reported that Davis was granted a last-minute reprieve, not a stay. “It’s twenty-three more minutes longer than the state of Georgia intended Troy Davis to live,” Jealous just said.

We’ll keep you posted with rolling updates from Democracy Now! and others in the field. Keep refreshing this link for news.

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