The New York Times on the Troy Davis execution Today, Georgia plans to execute Troy Davis for the 1989 murder of a police officer. "The Georgia pardon and parole board's refusal to grant him clemency is appalling in light of developments after his conviction: 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," writes The New York Times editorial board. Though this case is gaining special attention, it reveals the flaws in the death penalty legal process at large, they write. The greatest problems in Davis's trial involved witness identification. The Savannah police staged a reenactment of the crime for four eyewitnesses, contaminating and synchronizing their memories of it. "The police showed some of the witnesses Mr. Davis's photograph even before the lineup. His lineup picture was set apart by a different background. The lineup was also administered by a police officer involved in the investigation, increasing the potential for influencing the witnesses," they write. These revelations come on top of much research showing the unreliability of witness identification. Many wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence were the result of false identifications by eyewitnesses. A majority of witnesses recanted testimony after the Davis trial and claimed police threatened them. The man who first identified Davis as the shooter has since confessed to the crime. Georgia has received 630,000 letters asking for reconsideration of the case, but the board's refusal threatens to become "tragic miscarriage of justice."
Harold Meyerson on Pennsylvania's electoral college ploy In Pennsylvania, "a new ploy has emerged" among the Republican majority to secure the party's success in the 2012 elections. "Instead of having all of Pennsylvania's electoral votes go to the candidate who carries the state's popular vote, as is the long-standing practice in Pennsylvania and 47 other states, [Senate Majority Leader Dominic] Pileggi wants to apportion those votes by congressional district," writes Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post. Democrats have carried Pennsylvania in every presidential contest since 1992. In 2008, Obama won Pennsylvania with 55 percent of the vote, but if the newly proposed system had been in place, John McCain would have received 10 of the state's 22 electoral votes. Though Obama could easily carry the state's popular vote again in 2012 by taking huge urban majorities in Pennsylvania, Republicans would likely still win most of the electoral votes. "Ultimately, what Pileggi's plan does is extend to the states the electoral college's bias against popular-vote majorities," Meyerson writes, noting that the college was invented to give southerners, who counted non-voting slaves toward their electoral vote totals, more sway in presidential elections by diminishing the power of the popular vote. This makes sense as Republican strategy, Meyerson says. "As minorities and the poor tend to cluster in cities, in heavily Democratic congressional districts, apportioning a state's electoral votes by congressional district creates an opportunity for GOP electoral gains even though the party's share of the popular vote is waning." But if 2012 does become a close election and a Republican wins only because of Republican strategies like this one, the president's legitimacy will rest on very shaky ground and will make governing a challenge, Meyerson predicts.