While anti-death penalty proponents and those who opposed the recent controversial execution of Troy Anthony Davis by the state of Georgia are struggling to come to terms with the killing of a possibly innocent man, news of the case of Samuel David Crowe, a white male criminal sentenced to death and spared by the parole board in Georgia, has sparked debate and fueled allegations of racism and inequality before the law in the state of Georgia.
Samuel David Crowe killed a store manager in March 1988 during a robbery in Douglas, west of Atlanta. Crowe shot the victim three times with a pistol. He pleaded guilty of murder and armed robbery. [Source].
He was sentenced to death.
In May 2008, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles spared the confessed murderer from death, three hours before his execution and commutated his sentence to life imprisonment. Samuel David Crowe's lawyer reportedly presented the board with evidence of "remorse and good behavior in jail."
The action of the parole board in this case, although welcomed, is in sharp contrast to the way the board handled the controversial case of Troy Davis, an African-American male convicted of murder in 1991 and executed on 21 September 2011.
In the case of Troy Davis, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency, despite the fact that too much doubt surrounded his conviction. Troy's conviction was based on eyewitness accounts. No murder weapon was found and there was no DNA evidence linking him to the crime. Seven out of the nine star eyewitnesses changed or recanted their testimonies. Some witnesses said they were coerced by the police to testify against Troy Davis.
The board that spared the life of a confessed murderer refused clemency for a possibly innocent man - ignoring almost a million petitions from rights groups like Amnesty International USA and individuals, including former U.S president Jimmy Carter, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, civil rights activist Al Sharpton and many members of the U.S Congress.
Even a juror in the Troy Davis trial expressed concern about his conviction.
The handling of the Troy Davis case and Samuel David Crowe case by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles attracted some strong criticism online - where many argued that the granting of clemency for Samuel David Crowe and the execution of Troy Davis despite too much doubt surrounding his conviction had something to do with racism.
Some comments posted on Facebook in relation to the Samuel David Crowe case include the following:
"... wow, this dude actually confessed to killing but was never executed?... wow...".
"Stupid, racist, demonic justice system...".
"... I wanna be white :-)"
Many are concerned about racism in the U.S legal system, as illustrated in Press TV program "American Dream." However, it is important to remember that people of different racial and ethnic groups spoke out in opposition to the execution of Troy Davis, and stood shoulder to shoulder with him till the end. The death penalty is a common enemy and all executions are wrong. It is important to welcome every death sentence clemency decision or commutation - irrespective of the beneficiary's race or ethnicity.
The decision to spare Samuel David Crowe from execution was a move in the right direction and should be celebrated by all people of goodwill, irrespective of emotions sparked by the Troy Davis controversy. The death penalty is flawed in many ways and should be abolished. There is always the possibility of the execution of an innocent individual, given that there is always the possibility of a wrongful conviction.
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