Justice Integrity Project
As the Supreme Court began its annual term on Oct. 3, I’d like to share suggestions below on how legal reformers — our team, in other words — can be much more effective in achieving results. That’s the dream. But the reality is that we face huge challenges that require new approaches to fight due process violations and other wrongdoing that appears to extend high into the legal system. These days, the general principles converge in the person of Clarence Thomas — associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and someone whom the FBI should vigorously investigate.
Like many, I thought about due process issues after Georgia executed Troy Davis on Sept. 21 despite powerful evidence casting doubt on the witness identifications prompting his conviction for a fatal shooting of an off-duty policeman. I published a column, “Troy Davis, Clarence Thomas and Georgia on Our Minds.” Organizers of an Oct. 1 street rally in Washington, DC then asked me to suggest practical next steps following hundreds of thousands of petition signatures protesting the execution. The next day, I reflected more about this during annual Red Mass ceremonies in Washington celebrating the law’s spiritual dimensions. Led by Archbishop Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Catholic church leaders hosted six of the nine Supreme Court Justices – including Thomas and a likely majority of those who allowed Georgia to execute Davis. Other guests included White House Chief of Staff William Daley, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
At first impression, Saturday’s street rally had little in common with the magnificent service Sunday about 15 blocks away at the upscale Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. The 50 or so at the street rally were primarily black, modestly dressed, and strongly left-wing in politics. About half wore an “I am Troy Davis” sticker or similar tee-shirt to show solidarity with the executed man. Via a taped jailhouse interview by WPFW before his death, they heard Davis speak humbly about his wasted life, innocence and hopes for young people to avoid his mistakes in hanging out with the wrong crowd to be “cool.” The crowd doubled by the time the march reached the St. Stephen & The Incarnation Episcopal Church, with the demographics remaining roughly the same.
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