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Darcy Courteau

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On September 21, Troy Davis was executed for the 1989 shooting of a police officer, despite grave doubts about Davis’s guilt. A murder weapon was never recovered, and several witnesses have since recanted. Though Davis maintained his innocence until the end—strapped to a gurney in a Georgia execution chamber, he reportedly told the victim’s family, also present, that he was not the one to commit the murder—he received a lethal injection and died. Given a chance to stay the execution just hours earlier, however, the U.S. Supreme Court refused. In “Last Chance on Death Row” in last fall’s WQ, William Baude explained why the Court would be unlikely to intervene.

Judicial power is so great, binding even our most prominent citizens, that courts must only review the cases that the legislature allows, he writes. Judges with unchecked power would be “intolerably dangerous.” That’s not to say that nothing can be done about future Troy Davises. “If we care so much that actual innocence claims get into court,” Baude concluded, “we should be lobbying the democratically elected branches, which have the power to create new procedures.”

Photo: Demonstration outside the Supreme Court on the night of Troy Davis's execution, by Collin David Anderson via flickr