Thursday, July 05, 2007

Machinery of death grinds ahead

----This man may be innocent. Georgia wants him dead /2007/07/ 01/2007-07-01_machinery_ of_death_grinds_ ahead.html

By NY Daily News Columnist Errol Louis, July 1, 2007

2 days ago, the state of Georgia issued a death warrant in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, requiring the state's Department of Corrections to execute him by lethal injection between July 17 and 24.

There's overwhelming evidence that Davis did not commit the murder for which he has been sentenced to die. But Georgia's machinery of death is grinding ahead anyway, despite pleas for mercy from a growing number of voices including Amnesty International and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu.

Late on the night of Aug. 19, 1989, Davis got into a fight with a man outside a Burger King next to the Greyhound bus station in Savannah. A 27-year-old cop named Mark Allen MacPhail, moonlighting at the station as a security guard, ran to the scene and was shot to death.

No murder weapon was ever found, and no physical evidence made it to trial. But Davis - a 20-year-old tough known on the streets as RAH, for "rough as hell," was convicted of the grisly killing and sentenced to death on the strength of nine witnesses who claimed they saw him do it or heard him confess to the crime after the fact.

Six of the nine witnesses have since recanted their testimony, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A witness named Antoine Williams, who originally testified that he saw Davis pull the trigger, signed a sworn statement in 2002 that he had "no idea what the person who shot the officer looks like," and now says he was pressured by cops to finger Davis.

Another witness, a woman on parole named Dorothy Ferrell, also signed a sworn recantation of her original testimony. "I don't know which of the guys did the shooting because I didn't see that part," she now says. "I was still scared that if I didn't cooperate with the detective, then he might find a way to have me locked up again."

A man named Jeffrey Sapp, who testified to hearing Davis brag about the shooting the day after the murder, also signed a recantation and says cops pressured him. "None of that was true," he now says of his original testimony.

Another man who claimed Davis confessed to him now says he made up the story out of spite because Davis once spat in his face while both were in jail.

Sensing a pattern?

Stephen Sanders, who was at the Burger King when the shots rang out, originally told cops he couldn't identify the shooter except by the color of his clothes - but ended up naming Davis as the shooter at the trial, and is now ducking requests for interviews.

And last but not least, one of the key witnesses, Sylvester (Red) Coles - who originally went to police and named Davis as the shooter - is probably the real killer, according to Davis' lawyers. Coles never told cops he owned a .38 revolver, the kind used in the murder, and three people have come forward to say they heard Coles take credit for the killing.

"Red said he killed a policeman and a guy named Troy took the fall for it," one of these witnesses says.

But none of these facts can change Davis' sentence, thanks to the federal Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which puts a time limit on when evidence can be admitted in state death penalty cases.

Davis didn't have the aggressive legal help needed to round up witnesses in time: Georgia is the only state in the union that doesn't guarantee death row prisoners a lawyer during crucial points in the appeals process.

Those who want to help save Davis' life - a commutation would still leave him in prison without parole - should write a short note to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and send it to Amnesty International, 730 Peachtree St., Suite 1060, Atlanta, Ga. 30308. The letter can be faxed to (404) 876-2276.

Please send your note soon. Enough voices raised might just give Davis the room he needs to prove his innocence - and stop the mad rush to execution that stains American justice.
From David Kaczynski, New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty

The impending execution of Troy Davis in Georgia is weighing on my heart.

For one thing, most of the evidence used to convict Davis has been discredited.

Unfortunately, the presumption of innocence becomes a presumption of guilt as soon as someone has been convicted. Thus, Davis is expected not only to disprove the evidence that led to his conviction, but he must also prove his innocence - something that is very difficult to do in non-DNA cases. It ought to shock us that we execute people whose guilt is so questionable.

But this particular case also feels personal to me. First, I corresponded briefly with Mr. Davis in 1999 and 2000. He wrote with dignity and intelligence. He likes baseball. He was concerned about his mother.

I also know Troy's sister, Martina Correa, who has been fighting for her brother's life for many years. I identify with her completely. She loves her brother and has dedicated much of her life and energy to saving him. Not only is Georgia planning to execute a man who may be innocent, but they are subjecting his family to a torment that could not be more cruel. Davis' mother is a lovely women, struggling with grief,
searching for a slender ray of hope. She and Martina are often seen at NCADP conferences, like so many of us who seek an extended family within the movement, among the hopeful and the wounded.

There are moments when I wake up to all the reasons that bring me to this struggle: love of family, love of humanity, and utter disgust for this callous system. The Troy Davis case is a poignant reminder.

Please take a moment to write a brief note to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. I imagine Mr. Davis' chances are slim. But we should not let Georgia carry out this execution without hearing from us. Please write a brief note asking that Davis' life be spared.

Mail your letter to: Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and send it to Amnesty International, 730 Peachtree St., Suite 1060, Atlanta, Ga. 30308. The letter can be faxed to (404) 876-2276.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Is There Courage in This Generation?

"I asked myself: What can I do to end this war if I'm willing to go to prison for it?"

I heard that statement this afternoon. But unfortunately it came from an old man remembering something he did a long time ago. In fact I was listening to three old men: Daniel Ellsberg, Mike Gravel, and Robert West. Thirty-five years ago they came together to publish The Pentagon Papers and puncture the public's illusions about the Vietnam War.

To understand what The Pentagon Papers were, imagine that Donald Rumsfeld had the true and secret history of the Iraq War locked in safe somewhere. Imagine what would happen if somebody opened that safe.

Well, replace Rumsfeld with McNamara and Iraq with Vietnam, and you pretty much have it. Daniel Ellsberg was a Rand Corporation analyst who had the clearances necessary to see the Papers. He funneled them to Gravel, a senator from Alaska, who made them virtually unsuppressible by reading them into the Congressional Record. And West ran Beacon Press, the 36th publisher that Ellsberg and Gravel went to, the one that said yes.

I heard them tell their story today at the General Assembly of Unitarian Universalists, the annual national meeting of my faith. We UUs have a certain amount to crow about in this story: Beacon is our house press and Gravel is a UU.

In a day or two you should be able to watch the video here:

You should. It's a great story, full of cloak and dagger: Ellsberg handing off the Papers to an associate at a Cambridge motel, and watching on the motel TV as the FBI raided his home. The associate doing a midnight transfer of boxes of documents from his trunk to Gravel's out in front of the Mayflower Hotel in D.C. Gravel, a dyslexic, needing his staff to help him read the 7,000 pages so that he would know what he had. All Gravel told each staffer was to pack a bag and come over to his house. At the door he met them individually and said "I have the Pentagon Papers. You can go home now, but if you come in you're staying until I leave for the Senate."

They all came in.

Imagine that. One congressional staffer after another willing to face going to jail -- not for money and not to cover up some other wrong-doing, but to end a war.

Seventeen different newspapers published portions of The Pentagon Papers in what Ellsberg called "institutional civil disobedience".

Imagine that.

Beacon Press agreed to publish the Papers in book form only after their usual law firm washed its hands and left. There was a real chance that West might go to jail, or that Beacon or even the UUA might be ruined.

They published.

Where does courage like that come from? Ellsberg says it's contagious. That was his exact word. He says he caught his courage by talking to draft resistors, the ones who decided to go to prison rather than to Vietnam. Gravel says he caught it from Ellsberg. And Gravel's staff must have caught it from him.

But that outbreak has been under control for years now. They must have come up with a vaccine or something, because I haven't seen a whole lot of courage lately.

Hundreds of people, Ellsberg speculates, have documents in their safes that could do for Iraq what The Pentagon Papers did for Vietnam. Hundreds more, he thinks, have documents that could derail the onrushing war with Iran.

If one of those people would decide that he's willing to go to prison.

Prison? These days I'd be happy just to see somebody who was willing to lose an election if necessary. Or just bear up while Dick Cheney scowled and Rush and Sean and their ilk said nasty things. Somebody who was willing to be ridiculed if that's what it took to end a war.

That's what Ellsberg saw in Gravel, and why he was willing to risk giving him the Papers. "Here was a senator who was not afraid to look foolish," he said today. "That's the fear that keeps us in line."

Ellsberg, we know in hindsight, didn't go to prison. The Nixon administration used such outrageous tactics against him that the case was thrown out of court. Gravel and West didn't go to prison. Beacon thrived. But nobody knew that was how it would come out.

So what does Ellsberg recommend to those hundreds of people who have the goods on our wars and potential wars? Don't wait. He thinks that if he'd done in 1963 what he did in 1969-72, the Vietnam War might never have become the fiasco it turned into. An informed public might not have stood for it. "Don't wait until the bombs are falling," he said this afternoon.

But he's an old man now. What does he know? Things were different in his day.

Doug Muder
22 June 2007

As always, I appreciate anything that gets me more readers. Feel free to forward this text or reproduce it in any other non-commercial way.
July 4, 1776
Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —

Quote from Election Fraud in America:" America is at a crossroads....But it takes more than good voting technology to make a democracy....Citizens need to raise our voices and confront the ignorance and corruption that has resulted in the use of DREs in our elections. ...It's time for everyone to know about the history of election fraud in our country. It's not the paper ballots we have to worry about-it's secret procedures and lack of observers. What to do? Know the issue, and raise our voices until we are heard!". Teresa Hommel.

Election Fraud in America:
Don't worry about Paper Ballots--
The Problem is Secret Procedures and Lack of Observers!

Teresa Hommel
June 28, 2007

As a citizen activist against electronic voting machines ("DREs") and an advocate of voter-marked paper ballots and precinct-based optical scanners, the most common argument I hear against paper ballots is that "they have always been subject to fraud."

To find out more, I read Deliver the Vote by Tracy Campbell, a history of American election fraud from 1742 to 2004, and the 68-page chapter on fraud in Election Administration in the United States, which details some cases that took place in the 1920s.[1] Here's what I learned.

Regardless of the technology used for voting, three characteristics of fraud have always been the same:

1. Fraud occurs when election procedures are conducted in secret. Secrecy has been supported by law makers, law enforcement, and the courts. People in positions of power have stayed in power by controlling the conduct of elections, and keeping what they do secret.

2. When fraud occurs, citizens are treated as outsiders to the election process, and are prevented, by the use of law or violence, from participating in or observing election procedures, and from investigating irregularities.

3. In order to control the real votes that are cast, certain would-be voters have been discouraged from voting by the use of law and violence.

It's a sorry history--observers kidnapped or beaten up, and courts refusing to open the ballot boxes to find out whether what's inside has any relationship to precinct tally sheets.

DREs, electronic voting machines, continue this tradition of fraud. Just when surveillance cameras could open our poll sites to continuous observation and prevent the hanky-panky, DREs establish a new barrier to citizen oversight. Citizens are shut out. We can't understand the procedures. We can't observe in a meaningful way sufficient to attest that procedures and counting were proper and honest. Voters can't even observe their own votes.

Just like the ballot boxes of old, DREs cannot be opened-their insides are concealed by trade secret and intellectual property claims of vendors, which have been consistently upheld by election administrators and courts. Courts today are playing the same role with DREs that courts of yesterday played with wooden ballot boxes. Our courts are protecting the secret software and any other secrets that might be inside, such as log files showing communications intrusions, alterations of tally files, and other evidence of fraud. This is the reason we sometimes hear "there's no evidence that DREs have ever been subject to fraud."

Despite talk about outside hackers, insider control of election outcomes has never been easier--just point and click, and after changing the tallies, remember to "save" before you "exit".

It is ironic that by allowing our votes to be concealed inside computers-and thereby facilitating fraud-we may actually prevent some of the violence historically associated with elections. Obviously, with computers handling the votes, with errors and fraud being invisible and undetectable, it doesn't matter who votes or who observes in the poll site. We no longer need violence to suppress the vote or scare off observers.

New Legislation in an old Model

After I read these works on election fraud, I then read two election reform bills that have been introduced in Congress. They are scary and outrageous. H.R. 811 and S. 1487 would create new legal bases for the secrecy related to computerized voting systems, and further prevent citizen oversight of our elections. It appears that S. 1487 would even make the Election Assistance Commission exempt from FOIL requests.[2]

Technology Can Serve Democracy

Technology can be useful in elections in the form of tactile, mechanical, robotic, or computerized devices to assist voters with disabilities, non-English languages, or illiteracy who want to make their voting selections without requiring another person to know for whom they are voting.

Technology can also help to secure our ballot boxes: surveillance cameras, heat and motion sensors for storage areas, and the many technologies used in warehouses to protect and keep track of inventory.

There are many ways that twenty-first century technology can be useful in elections, but computers should not be used to record, cast, store, handle, and count the votes because this prevents the citizen participation and observation that can keep these procedures honest.

Computers are not secure. Computers cannot be secured.

People argue over whether computers are secure. "Yes they are!" "No they aren't!" The arguments are not very meaningful, because here's the fact--no large computer system is secure, and no computer system is secure from the people who work with it.

Paper can be secure.

Is paper secure? Can it be? Banks, warehouses, and other businesses protect paper with minimum difficulty by the use of careful procedures, competent management, and surveillance cameras. But it needs to be said that nationwide, our election administration has an aggressive "can't do" attitude: "we can't protect paper," "we can't get people to volunteer to help with elections," "we can't audit computers to show that they are working properly because audits are too burdensome, time-consuming, and expensive, and also they are unnecessary because we trust the computers."[3]

Election Reform in America-2007

America is at a crossroads. If we are to continue to be a democracy, we need to get rid of DREs now and use surveillance cameras to secure our ballot boxes for paper ballots.

But it takes more than good voting technology to make a democracy.

We citizens need to inform ourselves about our government via the alternative news media. Just on the subject of elections, most people know about the lost 18,000 votes in the Christine Jennings race in Florida's 13th Congressional District. But our major media has not covered the thousands of other documented failures of computerized voting machines, and the voters who were disenfranchised as a result. We can learn much from various web sites: ,, etc.

We citizens also need to remember what democracy means-government of the people. We need to show up as poll workers and observers. "Get out the vote" efforts may have a negative effect in the long run, because we citizens need to participate in more ways than just voting. Minimizing the responsibilities of citizenship to the mere act of voting trivializes both citizenship and voting, and may contribute to the attitude that voting doesn't count.

Conclusion - What to do!

Citizens need to raise our voices and confront the ignorance and corruption that has resulted in the use of DREs in our elections. It's time for all our public servants to know why DREs are wrong, with or without a paper trail, and to take a public position against continued use of DREs.

It's time for everyone to know about the history of election fraud in our country. It's not the paper ballots we have to worry about-it's secret procedures and lack of observers. It's time to tell our U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators that the election reform bills in Congress are an outrage, and should be revised immediately.

Everyone concerned about our elections needs to stay informed by subscribing to the Daily Voting News from This includes activists concerned with other issues and all our public servants.

What to do? Know the issue, and raise our voices until we are heard!

# # #

[1] Deliver the Vote, 2005, by Tracy Campbell, Carroll and Graf Publishers.
Election Administration in the United States, 1934, by Joseph P. Harris, Ph.D., available at
[2] Resources are available at
Analysis of HR 811,
Analysis of S1487, and
[3] See for example, Testimony of Doug Lewis of The Election Center, March 20, 2007

A few days before the November 2004 election, Jimmy Carter was asked what would happen if, instead of flying to Zambia or Venezuela or East Timor, his widely respected international election monitoring team was invited to turn its attention to the United States. His answer was stunningly blunt. Not only would the voting system be regarded as a failure, he said, but the shortcomings were so egregious the Carter Center would never agree to monitor an election there in the first place. "We wouldn't think of it," the former president told a radio interviewer. "The American political system wouldn't measure up to any sort of international standards, for several reasons."

from Steal This Vote by Andrew Gumbel