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Opening Arguments

Faith in justice

Are these people nuts?

A parole board panel has recommended the release of a former Charles Manson follower imprisoned for 40 years for a double murder Manson engineered, but it's not the last hurdle Bruce Davis will face as he seeks his freedom.

The recommendation that came Thursday on the eve of Davis' 70th birthday in his 27th parole hearing is subject to a 120-day review period by the entire parole board. If upheld, Gov. Jerry Brown then has 30 days to review the decision, and could reject it as his predecessor Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did the last time parole was recommended.

A parole board then determined then that Davis was ready for release, saying he had no recent disciplinary problems and had completed education andself-help programs.

[. . .]

"While your behavior was atrocious, your crimes did occur 43 years ago," parole board member Jeff Ferguson told Davis, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

To answer my own question, yes, they are. There shouldn't be a statute of limitations on atrocity. Releasing such a monster does not exactly instill confidence in the criminal justice system.

On the other hand, neither does this:

With an opinion yesterday from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, ACLU client Max Soffar moves a step closer to an unjust execution.  And, little more than one year after the execution of Troy Davis, our system moves closer to another miscarriage of justice. 

Soffar is an innocent man on Texas’s death row, who falsely confessed to crimes he didn’t commit.  He’s been there most of the last 32 years after being convicted of killing three people in a 1980 Houston bowling alley robbery. His conviction was based entirely on false words from his own mouth.

[. . .]

Sadly, despite the serious doubt over his confession, the court upheld the death sentence against Max Soffar because they didn’t think he proved there were any constitutional violations in his treatment and legal representation (a point on which we disagree, but that’s for another day).

It's bad enough when people get off on a technicality. But to die from a technicality? Sorry, pal, we know you're innocent, but we followed all the rules, so get ready to die. I don't always agree with the ACLU, but it's hard to argue with this:

When our criminal justice system surrenders these types of decisions to procedural technicalities, it surrenders any moral authority to execute.