Davis’s case offers a bracing and depressing illustration of capital punishment’s many problems. In their eagerness to prosecute a black man for murdering a white cop, local officials set in motion a killing machine that, once turned on, is near impossible to halt without executive intervention. Much has already been written about the details of Davis’s case; no reasonable observer can deny there is significant doubt as to his guilt. But our criminal justice system is anything but reasonable. Those who don’t come into contact with it can sit in self-satisfied assurance that our cops and courts measure out blind justice that keeps society well ordered. The evidence simply does not support that fantasy, as Davis’s life and death so dreadfully illustrate. In fact, if we are to judge our criminal justice system by its outcomes, it is built to round up masses of black men, transfer public funds to private companies to warehouse them, and then kill them in cold blood.
Ballistics evidence used to convict Davis has since been debunked. Another witness has since emerged as a plausible suspect in the murder. Three jurors on the case now say that if they knew then what they know now, they would not have voted to convict. Davis was quite possibly innocent, but that was hardly the point. As expressed by the popular Twitter hash-tag, the problem was quite simply that there was #TooMuchDoubt.
It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case — not one — in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent’s name would be shouted from the rooftops.
Antonin Scalia, Cameron v. Marsh, 2006.
He and his current Supreme Court colleagues should consider how painful eating those words is going to feel.