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Guts over evidence

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | SEPTEMBER 26, 2011 7:20 AM

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Yeah, I have an opinion on the death penalty. I actually have an extreme bias against the death penalty. It's cruel, it's unusual, and it's irrational in so many ways. And I was furious when Troy Davis was executed on Sept. 21.

But I was not enraged because of my bias against capital punishment; I was enraged because of the obvious incompetence of the United States judicial system.

With the ongoing Charles Thompson trial, the issue of reasonable doubt becomes more human than just a few headlines from national newspapers. Reasonable doubt is crucial when looking at evidence in any trial, and it is especially so when looking at proper sentencing in first-degree murder trials.

Black's Law Dictionary defines "beyond all reasonable doubt" as "the doubt that prevents one from being firmly convinced of a defendant's guilt, or the belief that there is a real possibility that a defendant is not guilty." This definition is vague and wordy, leading many jurors to be confused as to what exactly it means.

It means you have to be sure, to a moral certainty, the defendant is guilty of the crime she or he is alleged to have committed. It is not a gut feeling but rather, a deep examination of the evidence that convinces a person of guilt.

In the Davis case, there was enough reasonable doubt to, at least, stay his execution. There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the murder — no fingerprints, no DNA evidence, not even a murder weapon. There was only eyewitness testimony, which is unreliable and shoddy. Memories can be planted or manipulated easily through suggestions by experts or lawyers. This is especially evident in cases where there was evidence of police coercion, which there was in the Davis case.

There was reasonable doubt at Davis's trial, but if that doesn't persuade you, then maybe the fact that seven of the nine eyewitnesses in the case recanted their testimony afterwards would.

No?

Well, then maybe several affidavits stating that another man, Sylvester Coles, confessed to the murder post-trial would.

No?

But what happens if former President Jimmy Carter and former FBI Director and Judge William S. Sessions called on the judiciary system to grant Davis a new trial or least an evidentiary hearing? They are pretty credible right?

No?

Well, looks like you agree with the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected Davis's last minute plea to further investigate the evidence (or, in this case, the lack thereof). The needle and poison are ready, so why look further into the case? There is a little evidence that says he is innocent, but why waste more money and time to see if it is credible?

That little evidence is reasonable doubt. That little evidence is enough to hold off killing a man when it is possible, in some realm of rationality, that he is innocent.

Think about that when you are reading the headlines about the Charles Thompson trial this week. No matter how much you feel in your gut that he is guilty, your gut didn't go to law school.


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