The New York Times editorialized about "A Grievous Wrong" being done to Troy Davis, citing "reports about police misconduct, the recantation of testimony by a string of eyewitnesses and reports from other witnesses that another person had confessed to the crime."
In all criminal appeals, defense lawyers roll out claims of "police misconduct," preposterously unbelievable "new" witnesses and a surprise "confession" by someone else.
In fact, that's a single typewriter key at the Times, used for all reports on criminal convictions. I have my own typewriter key to describe Times' editorials on executions: "reports about extreme self-righteousness, excessive moral preening, obliviousness to the facts, and lies from a string of journalists."
Always check to see if the person suddenly confessing to a crime will face any penalty for doing so. You will find that surprise confessions invariably come from those already serving the maximum sentence or that the statute of limitations has run out.
(The Times editorial didn't mention the police officer murdered by Davis. A few days later, an article on the execution did mention the victim in the fifth paragraph -- and then spelled his name wrong.)
Those of you who follow my work assiduously know that Davis shot and killed an off-duty cop, Mark MacPhail, in a busy Burger King parking lot in front of dozens of witnesses, including people who knew him, as well as a van full of Air Force airmen.
After shooting the cop once, Davis sauntered up to the cop's body and shot him again, directly in the head. As one of the airmen told the jury in identifying Davis: "You don't forget someone that stands over and shoots someone."
In Davis' case, the main argument for his innocence was that seven of the nine witnesses against him had recanted. That sounds pretty impressive -- until you realize there were 34 witnesses against him and only five altered their trial testimony in any way. And then you find out what liberals mean by "recant."
The much-ballyhooed "recantations" in Davis' case were typical, which is to say: nothing of the sort. Years after the trial, defense lawyers trick witnesses into making small, inconsequential alterations to their testimony. Then the lawyers rush to the press claiming the witness has "recanted."
For example, Davis' lawyer prepared an affidavit for the girlfriend of the homeless man Davis was beating when MacPhail intervened and got shot. The affidavit was consistent with her trial testimony in all respects -- including identifying Davis as the killer -- except that the lawyer altered her description of events to say that Davis had been "arguing" with her boyfriend before shooting the cop.
The girlfriend would have had no way to know -- years later -- that this was any different from her original trial testimony. She signed the lawyer-drafted affidavit, but didn't consider it important enough to get notarized. Then she died.
Out of 34 witnesses for the prosecution, that was one of the five purported "recantations." Normal people hear that and say, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE CALLING A 'RECANTATION'?"
One begins to see why the criminal lobby has turned to statistics, rather than specific cases, to claim that America executes the innocent.