The Supreme Court has taken the rare step of ordering a federal trial court to conduct a new hearing for Georgia death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis. The high court ordered the new hearing to determine “whether evidence that could not have been obtained at the time of trial clearly establishes” Davis’s innocence. Since Davis was convicted for the 1989 killing of a white police officer, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony. There is no direct physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene. Troy Davis’s sister Martina Correia recently appeared on Democracy Now!
Martina Correia: “These people were easily manipulated. They built this case around Troy with no physical evidence, no DNA. And what they did is they ran on the excitement and the adrenaline that we have to get somebody for this police officer’s murder, we have to appease community. And, you know, it got to the point where they were attacking so many black men that it’s like any black man will do. And when Sylvester Coles came and pointed at Troy, everything dropped, and they just built a case around Troy.”
In the majority opinion in the Troy Davis case, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “The substantial risk of putting an innocent man to death clearly provides an adequate justification for holding an evidentiary hearing.” Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas objected to the court’s decision. Scalia criticized his colleagues for thinking that mere innocence is grounds to overturn a conviction. Scalia wrote, “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent.” We’ll have more on Troy Davis’s case on Wednesday.
In Afghanistan, a mortar has hit the presidential palace in Kabul while another rocket struck the police headquarters in the Afghan capital. In a third attack, seven people were killed and fifty-two wounded by a suicide car bomber who rammed his car into a convoy of Western troops in the Afghan capital. The dead included two Afghan employees of the United Nations. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks that come just two days before the nation’s presidential election.
On Monday, President Barack Obama defended his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, saying it was “a war worth fighting.” Obama spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention in Phoenix.
President Obama: “As I said when I announced this strategy, there will be more difficult days ahead. The insurgency in Afghanistan didn’t just happen overnight, and we won’t defeat it overnight. This will not be quick nor easy. But we must never forget, this is not a war of choice, this is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”
The news website Global Post is reporting that one of the richest sources of Taliban funding has become foreign assistance coming into the country. Virtually every major reconstruction project includes a healthy cut for the insurgents in the form of protection money or extortion. International donors, primarily the United States, are to a large extent financing their own enemy. The manager of one Afghan firm with lucrative construction contracts with the US government builds in a minimum of 20 percent for the Taliban in his cost estimates. The manager, who would not speak openly, has told friends privately that he makes in the neighborhood of $1 million per month. Out of this, $200,000 is siphoned off for the insurgents. If the money is not paid out, road workers may be attacked or killed, bridges may be blown up, engineers may be assassinated.
In news from this country, gun control advocates have expressed concern over the growing number of armed protesters attending town hall meetings and speeches by President Obama. On Monday, police in Phoenix reported at least a dozen protesters were carrying arms near a convention hall where President Obama spoke. At least one man had an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle slung over his shoulder. Police made no arrests, citing a state law that allows people to carry unconcealed guns. On August 11, police arrested a man for having a loaded, unlicensed gun in his car near a New Hampshire school where Obama later held a healthcare forum. In a separate incident, another man outside that same event displayed a gun in a holster on his leg. Protesters also brought guns to recent town hall meetings on healthcare in Tennessee and Arizona. On Monday, Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews and defended the right of protesters to be armed.
Rep. Gingrey: “Well, Chris, they may have every right to do that. These may be” —
Matthews: “And we know that.”
Gingrey: — “off-duty police officers. They could — well, you don’t know. But if they’ve got a permit to carry, then absolutely, they can show that and prove that they have the right.”
Matthews: “But why would you bring a gun” —
Gingrey: “If they’re coming into a school, they might” —
Matthews: — “to where the President was speaking? Why would you bring a gun — anybody — I know it`s a right. But why would you do it? Under what conditions would you choose to use it?…I’ve never seen this in my life before, people coming armed to public debates about healthcare?”
Gingrey: “Chris, it just so happens these very people would take that same weapon anywhere they go, anywhere where they’re permitted to carry a concealed weapon. They have the right to do that, and I agree with Jim.”
Matthews: “They`re not concealed.”
Gingrey: “The right under the Second Amendment…”
In healthcare news, several Democratic lawmakers have expressed alarm over proposals to abandon plans to create a government-run insurance option. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others defended the public insurance plan, saying it is essential to keep the private health insurance companies honest. Democratic Congress member Jan Schakowksy of Illinois said she saw no credible alternative to a public option. Schakowksy said, “The insurance industry would be absolutely giddy to have a mandate that everybody have health insurance without any real competition.” Meanwhile, many questions remain unanswered about the proposed creation of healthcare cooperatives instead of the government-run insurance option. In 2000, a report by the US General Accounting Office found that the potential for cooperatives to reduce overall health insurance premiums is limited, in part because they lack sufficient leverage as a result of their limited market share.
The Obama administration filed court papers Monday claiming the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against gay and lesbians. But in a move that has angered gay rights activists, the Justice Department urged dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the act, noting it remains law until Congress repeals it. Opponents of same-sex marriage accused the White House of insincerity in its defense of the act, and supporters demanded a more proactive approach to ensuring that all citizens enjoy equal protection under the law.
A delegation from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights has arrived in Honduras to monitor the situation more than a month after the democratically elected Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup. The commission met with local Honduran human rights groups but refused to meet with the interim government. Luz Patricia Mejia is the head of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
Luz Patricia Mejia: “The commission will not meet with Micheletti, because the commission has reiterated that it does not recognize Mr. Micheletti as the president. We recognize President Manuel Zelaya as the constitutional president, and because of this we will not have any meetings.”
Luz Patricia Mejia also said the commission has received reports of human rights abuses committed by the coup government.
Luz Patricia Mejia: “Since the coup, the Inter-American commission has received an important number of complaints on violations of human rights. They come from representatives of the unions, social leaders, human rights campaigners, from the feminist movement, and many complaints concern the impossibility of carrying out their functions in a free way.”
In economic news, the new head of the bailed-out insurance giant AIG will earn at least $7 million a year, even though AIG is essentially now a taxpayer-owned entity. Robert Benmosche will earn seventeen times more than President Barack Obama’s $400,000 salary. Benmosche will also be eligible for a $3.5 million bonus. The New York Times reports the pay package has received preliminary approval by Kenneth Feinberg, the administration official in charge of overseeing compensation for top executives at seven large firms bailed out by the federal government. Bernmosche is the former head of MetLife. He still owns about $17 million in MetLife stock.
The Obama administration has acknowledged more more than one in ten deaths in immigration detention in the last six years have been overlooked and were omitted from an official list of detainee fatalities issued to Congress in March. Earlier this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told Congress that ninety immigrant detainees had died in US custody since October 2003. But yesterday the government added ten previously unreported deaths to the official roster. In addition, the government revealed a twenty-four-year-old Ethiopian man had died on Friday after trying to commit suicide in the Wakulla County correctional facility near Tallahassee, Florida.
In another closely watched death penalty case, a judge in Texas is on trial for refusing to allow lawyers for a death row prisoner to lodge a last-minute appeal. The State Judicial Commission in Texas has charged Judge Sharon Keller with failing to follow the court’s execution day procedures in the case of death row prisoner Michael Wayne Richard and denying Richard access to open courts and the right to be heard. On the day of Richard’s scheduled execution in 2007, Judge Keller refused to allow the court clerk’s office to stay open a few minutes past 5:00 p.m. to allow Richard’s attorneys to file emergency paperwork in light of a Supreme Court decision that had come down that afternoon. Richard was executed that night.
The FBI has agreed to investigate the beating of an African American man by Minneapolis police officers earlier this year. Derryl Jenkins was arrested in February after he was pulled over for speeding. Video of the arrest show a group of officers kicking and punching Jenkins while he was being held face down in the snow. A taser is used at one point during the arrest. Charges have since been dropped against Jenkins, but no disciplinary action has been taken against the officers involved.
And in California, four anti-torture activists were arrested at the University of California, Berkeley during a protest calling for the school to fire former Justice Department attorney John Yoo. Shouting “war criminal,” protesters confronted Yoo as he entered a classroom Monday at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. Yoo is teaching a course this semester on civil law.
And former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has died at the age of eighty-five. He won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to forge a reconciliation with North Korea.