The Ed Show for Wednesday, September 21, 2011, 11p show
Read the transcript to the Wednesday 11p show
Guests: Thanh Truong, Rachel Maddow, Ben Jealous, Ari Melber, Allen Ault, Barry Scheck
ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening. Our coverage of the
execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis continues now on MSNBC.
The 42-year-old David is scheduled to be executed within the hour.
In the last hour, the United States Supreme Court rejected a request
to block the execution, which was scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern time this
evening. It was delayed while the state of Georgia awaited the ruling from
Davis was convicted in 1991 of killing off duty police officer Mark
MacPhail. His execution had been stayed three separate times over the past
20 years. Since that time seven of the nine witnesses against Davis have
reportedly recanted their testimony.
Some jurors have publicly changed their minds about his guilt. Others
claim a man who was with Davis that night told people he is the actual
Joining us, coming up, will be Rachel Maddow, Ben Jealous, Jeremy
Scahill, and Barry Scheck and Allen Ault.
For the latest from Georgia, NBC News correspondent Thanh Truong joins
us outside the prison in Jackson, Georgia. What is it like out there
THANH TRUONG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, the atmosphere is very
thick with tension, a lot of anticipation for word that this execution has
gone through. I just spoke with a spokeswoman from the Department of
Corrections here in Georgia. She says that they`re more than midway
through the execution at this point.
She believes that within ten minutes, she`ll get some word of the
official details of this execution. But this execution has already begun.
Before she had mentioned that it was going to take about 20 to 30 minutes -
- and that was in the previous hour -- to get everybody in place for this
execution to take place.
But now we understand that the execution has already gone through the
process. Now, we`re just waiting for confirmation of the details and the
sequence in which this happened. Inside that execution chamber, we
understand that there was going to be three members of the MacPhail family.
We know that members of Davis` family are right now in the so-called pit
area, where they have roped off an area -- the Department of Corrections
has made an area for protesters and supporters for Troy Davis.
His family -- Troy Davis` family are inside that pit area right now.
We`re just waiting right now, anticipating some kind of word of the details
of this execution. And as you`ve mentioned, this has been a very long
struggle and a very emotional struggle on both sides. On one side, you
have had hundreds and thousands of supporters and protesters all in support
of Troy Davis, saying that the recanting of these statements from seven of
nine witnesses is more than reasonable doubt for this execution to be
It came down to a last minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Of
course, they denied that stay of this execution. On the other side, you
have had prosecutors and the family of officer MacPhail saying that this
has already gone through the judicial process. This has already been
litigated in a court of law.
These witnesses now that have recanted their statements originally
swore under oath, pointed and said that Troy Davis was the trigger man who
shot and killed officer MacPhail as he tried help a homeless man. So it`s
all come to a head tonight.
The other side, the family, of course -- the MacPhail family say that,
look, this has been a long process. We have waited 22 years since he was
killed. We are thirsty for justice. We`re not blood thirsty, but we`re
thirsty for justice at this point.
So now, we`re just waiting official details of this and we`re
anticipating that some of the media witnesses -- and we`re hoping that the
MacPhail family will avail themselves to make some statements following
this execution. `
SCHULTZ: Thanh, what are the people outside the facility doing
tonight? How are they responding to this? What are they doing now?
TRUON: You know, Ed, within the last hour, this crowd has been dead
silent. Throughout the night, we`ve heard kind of periodic hoorays and
then cheers and then long lulls of silence. As you can imagine, so many
people have been checking their devices, their blackberries, their iPhones,
so on and so forth, trying to get whatever information they could, hoping
that somehow the Supreme Court was actually going to delay this and issue a
As the words came in and these unconfirmed reports, there were cheers
and then there were long periods of people just waiting and then silence.
Now, there`s just a very, very heavy silence that`s fallen over the crowd.
On one side of Georgia Highway 36 -- just to give you an idea, the Georgia
Diagnostic Prison on one side is on the side of Highway 36. On the other
side is an everyday truck stop. So it`s been busy with traffic all day.
But lining this highway, hundreds and hundreds of supporters and
protesters, all for Troy Davis. On the prison side, we`re seeing a full
force right now, more than 100, I would say, of Georgia riot police in full
gear, ready for anything that may break out. We`re not trying to say that
they`re trying to intimidate the crowd at this point. But they`ve been
here all night anticipating anything that may happen, any outbursts.
And of course, they`re trying to keep everything orderly at this
point. Again, we are still waiting for official word from the Department
of Corrections on the details of this execution. They say it`s already
SCHULTZ: Thanh Truong, thank you so much. We will come back to you.
Joining me now is my colleague, Rachel Maddow, of "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW."
Rachel, great to have you with us tonight and thank you for spending time
with us on this big story, because obviously the people that we talk to
have been saying on this network all night that this is somewhat of a
turning point, that this is a case that will get a tremendous amount of
publicity after the execution, because of the way it`s been handled and all
of the evidence that has -- what many people think has not been presented.
A movement; what does that mean in your opinion, Rachel? Where does
this conclusion take us from here?
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: I think it`s the right question to be
asking, Ed. The question here is substantially, for many of those people
gathered outside that prison tonight in Jackson, Georgia, about Troy Davis
the man, about whether or not Troy Davis is the man that killed officer
Mark MacPhail, whether the justice system did, in fact, produce a justice
in convicting him and then in sentencing him to death.
For the broader attention, though, to this case, it is, in many cases
-- it is, in the larger sense, a question about the dealt penalty. One
detail of this that I would draw your attention to, Ed, is the means by
which Troy Davis is being killed right now in the state of Georgia.
State of Georgia, like other lethal injection states in this country,
used to rely on a drug cocktail that started with a drug called sodium
thiopental (ph). Sodium thiopental is called, in small doses, a truth
serum. But in larger doses, it was used as part of a lethal injection
When that drug stopped being made in the United States, its
manufacturing plant was moved to Italy. The Italians are not fans of the
death penalty. And the company -- the American company that made that drug
stopped making it.
Georgia is one of a handful of states that was essentially caught out
by the federal government, allegedly illegally importing that drug from a
fly by night drug distributor that temporarily set up shop in the back of a
driving school in west London. I wish I were kidding, but I`m not.
The federal government came in and seized Georgia`s supply of sodium
thiopental, all of the viles that it had on hand. So Georgia had to come
up with an add hoc procedure for coming up with a new way to kill its
They decided on using a drug that has the trade name Nembutal (ph).
Anybody who has any experience in veterinary medicine will know that is a
drug that is used to put down household pets. It has never been tested in
this type of use or even as an anesthetic in humans.
The Danish manufacturer that makes that drug says it should not be
used in executions. An earlier execution in Georgia this year was
videotaped, the first time an execution has been videotaped in this country
in 20 years, the first lethal injection ever videotaped, so that videotape
could potentially be used in lawsuits against the cruelty of this
particular form of lethal injection.
The chaos of the death penalty system in this country itself I think
makes it a political issue.
SCHULTZ: The way this has all unfolded, Rachel, we`re in a
politically hot climate in this country, with an election just a little
over a year ago. We have seen debates where execution was the topic of a
question and response by one of the contestants.
Does this shine a spotlight of special sorts, this case and the
political climate in this country? Or is this conversation about the death
penalty going to remain the same? Will it be heightened? Will it be
intensified? What do you think?
MADDOW: We`ve heard so much attention this year, in the past two
years really, Ed, about how the right is evolving, how there are splits and
differences in the types of conservatives that there are in America and
what type of conservatism is ascendant in Republican politics. If you
believe sort of the beltway media narrative about that, you believe that
there is an ascendant strain of libertarianism among Republicans and in the
conservative movement in this country, a suspicion of government, a belief
that government should not be powerful and should be as small as possible.
The power of a state government to kill its citizens is a power that
comes vested in it, a real faith in the state`s power to do that well, to
do that infallibly. Governor Rick Perry of Texas, when he was asked about
people cheering for the fact that he had overseen 234 -- 235 executions in
Texas, answered those questions about that cheering by talking about what
he saw as the infallibility of the death penalty justice system in this
I think the chaos, again, around the Troy Davis case and the doubts
that are raised about the -- whether justice was followed here, I should
say, I think raised a real question for Americans right, left and center,
about whether or not we trust state governments to be 100 percent right on
something that they can`t take back. You can`t take back killing a person.
SCHULTZ: Do you think that -- and I do, by the way. I do believe
that this event that we`re seeing unfold tonight is going to affect a lot
of Americans. And I think that there is going to be a lot of Americans
rethinking where they stand on the death penalty.
I also think that a spotlight is going to be shown on the lack of
resources that poor people have in our country when it comes to a
formidable defense, and a fair trial. I think this opens up a whole
Pandora`s Box about what we`re going to see in the justice system moving
In case you just joined us, the United States Supreme Court tonight
has denied a stay of execution for 42-year-old Troy Anthony Davis. The
execution, as reported moments ago by a reporter down in Jackson, Georgia,
is under way.
We should get the official word of his passing here in a very short
Back to you, Rachel. I really think that this is somewhat of a news
event and gotten so much conversation and so many questions, and a
miscarriage of justice in the minds of many Americans, that this is one
that is going to make people rethink the dial. What do you think?
MADDOW: We have not had broad, contested partisan politics around
crime and punishment issues during this recession, as a lot of people said
we would. A lot of the social scientists said as you see the unemployment
go up and as you see Americans` economic fortunes go down, you will see a
rise in crime. That will bring crime and punishment issues and all of the
American racial issues that go along with those back to the fore of what we
fight about as Americans who are politically interest and politically
Crime and punishment hasn`t really surfaced in that way. I think part
of the reason it hasn`t is because in -- since the last time we had a round
of a real national debate about that, since the last time, which I think
was during the Clinton administration, we have seen groups like the
Innocence Project and others raise real questions --
SCHULTZ: I have to interrupt. Let`s take this sound bite right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- with the execution. The coroner`s van will
be coming out very shortly. It will be a black van. Media will be able to
move up to get video of that van. At this time, we may have some people
who were at the actual execution, who may come out to do interviews.
We will wait for them to come out and we will be sitting in the same
area, if they do choose to do interviews. But again, the time of death is
SCHULTZ: At 11:08 tonight, the execution of Troy Anthony Davis was
completed by the Corrections Facility and the state of Georgia. With me,
Rachel Maddow. She will stay with us throughout the hour. As you heard
the official just say there, we are going to be hearing from some of the
people that were involved in this execution, explaining the process.
The United States Supreme Court has denied a request for the stay of
execution for Troy Davis. We will have continuing coverage here on MSNBC.
Stay with us.
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to our coverage here on MSNBC. For the latest
from Georgia, NBC News correspondent Thanh Truong joins me from outside the
prison in Jackson, Georgia.
TRUANG: Ed, I can tell you just now that the first van of witnesses
pulled up, I believe, right now. These are the media witnesses. They are
now coming up to the podium to talk about what they witnessed.
SCHULTZ: Let`s listen to them, Thanh, if we can.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made a statement in which he said he wanted to
talk to the MacPhail family and said that despite the situation you`re in,
he was not the one who did it. He said that he was not personally
responsible for what happened that night, that he did not have a gun.
He said to the family that he was sorry for their loss, but also said
that he did not take their son, father, brother. He said to them, to dig
deeper into this case, to find out the truth.
He asked his family and friends to keep praying, to keep working and
keep the faith. And then he said to the prison staff, the ones he said who
are going to take my life -- he said to them, may God have mercy on your
souls. And his last words were to them, may God bless your souls.
Then he put his head back down. The procedure began and about 15
minutes later, it was over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty much, they picked me. Well, I`ll do it.
But -- any questions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you want more exact quotes, we can give them
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would be great. In front of the mike.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m Rhonda Cook (ph) with the Atlanta Journal
Constitution. He said "the incident that night was not my fault. I did
not have a gun." That`s when he told his friends to continue to fight and
"look deeper into this case so you can really find the truth.
"For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls,
may God bless your souls."
To the MacPhail family, he said, of course, "I did not personally kill
your son, father and brother. I am innocent."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`ve been to an execution. You`ve been to a
few before. How, if at all, was this different?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was more security than usual at this
execution. There was more security than usual at this execution. But
otherwise, it went as other executions have gone here. There was tight
security, but the prison folks here are professionals and they`ve done this
It went pretty much as planned. I have the execution starting at
around 10:53. And he was declared dead at 11:08.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did he look? Was he talking in a loud voice,
a quiet voice?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was talking very quickly. As my colleagues
have said, he was defiant until the very end, maintaining his innocence
until the very end. He spoke quickly. He looked at -- one of his attorneys
was sitting on the second row. He appeared to glance at the attorney, who
nodded at him.
Mark MacPhail was sitting in the front row and he was looking at --
Mark was looking at Mr. Davis the entire time, it seemed. Once he was
declared dead, we were ushered out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How would you describe the mood?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somber, how else? It was just a somber, somber
event. We were all waiting for about four -- 4.5 hours in the prison with
no details on what was happening. Then when we were ushered into the
prison itself, we knew that -- we assumed at least that the Supreme Court
had rejected his final appeal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were any (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw two, the officer`s brother. His name is
William -- Mark MacPhail Jr.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did they have any reaction when he maintained his
innocence until the end?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Mark MacPhail leaned forward through the
whole process. His uncle, William MacPhail, sat back. And neither seemed
to move at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They spent the entire time just staring at Troy
Davis, never turned their heads, never did anything but stare ahead. Then,
when it was over, as they were leaving, they hugged somebody and they
seemed to smile about it. So for the MacPhail family, at least, they
seemed to get some satisfaction from what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pardon?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who was there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mark MacPhail Jr., his son and the officer`s
brother, William MacPhail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you talk to me about Troy Davis was saying
until the end?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was saying he was innocent. He said to the
MacPhail family again that he was not the one responsible -- he was not
personally responsible for what happened that night. He said that he did
not have a gun. He said that he was not the one who took their son,
father, brother. And he said he was innocent.
That was to the end. He lifted his head up. He was strapped to the
gurney when we walked in. When the warden asked if he had to make a
statement, he lifted his head up and looked directly at the front row,
which is where the MacPhail family and friends were sitting and said I want
to address the MacPahil family, and make sure they heard what he had to
say, which was that he claimed he was innocent; he was not responsible for
what happened that night in 1989; he did not have a gun; he was not
personally responsible for the death of officer MacPhail.
I`m paraphrasing, but this is what he was saying. Then he addressed
his friends and family, telling them to keep praying, keep working, keep
digging into this case. Then he said to the staff -- he said to the people
who are about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls and may God
bless your souls. That was it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the MacPhail family have any kind of physical
or verbal response?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We couldn`t see their faces. They were sitting in
the first row, so we did not see how they reacted to it. All I can say is
watching them while this was going on, they never turned their heads. They
never wavered. The entire time, they just stared at him through the glass
as the execution was taking place.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The execution was delayed for about four hours.
Do you know if he was strapped to the gurney the entire time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea. We weren`t there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry, did you say whether or not Davis family
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn`t see anybody, just the attorney for him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which attorney was that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it was Uward -- Jason Uward (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know if Davis -- anything about his last
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That I don`t know. I don`t believe he did have a
last meal. And I don`t think he made a final statement when was going to
be given the opportunity to record one. But he did make the statement, as
we`ve said, while he was strapped to the chair -- strapped to the gurney,
and again, addressed directly to the MacPhail family first, to let them
know that he said -- claimed he was innocent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did not eat his dinner and he did not take
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he participate in a prayer? I know that`s
something they offer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was offered but he did not. Then they started
the execution. He blinked rapidly for some period of time, and then he
went out. They checked him for consciousness. The warden came back into
the death chamber, went back out again. And then they started the lethal
mixture. And again, the whole thing took about 15 minutes; 11:08, the
warden came in and pronounced him dead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he make final statements on the couch -- on
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was strapped to the gurney when we came in. So
everything that happened, he was already strapped to the gurney. We came
in, the warden was in the room with him. Another prison official, medical
attendant, plus one that was off to the side, and then Troy Davis strapped
to the gurney.
The warden read -- while we were there, read the order from the
Chatham County judge, asked Troy Davis if he had any statement. Davis made
a statement. They ordered the procedure to go on. He asked if he had a
prayer first. There was no response.
Warden stepped out of the death chamber and then it started.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there any in the room?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A member of the medical staff was in there and
also somebody else who was out of our eyesight, off to the side. So there
were two other people in the death chamber with him. One was a medical
attendant who was monitoring the thing the whole time, monitoring the
lethal injection, and then somebody off to the side. .
Once the procedure was over, two doctors came in. Both used
stethoscopes. One checked vital signs, eyes, pulse and the like. And then
they nodded in agreement. And that`s when the warden pronounced him dead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, this is a highly publicized case.
What was it like to be a witness for this execution?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was somber. None of these are easy. It was
very quiet, much more so. The only sound where we were sitting was the
sound of the air conditioner.
People weren`t moving. There was not even some casual movement. I
think everybody in there understood the enormity of what was going on and
acted accordingly. It was very, very quiet, very respectful and very
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he make any physical gestures?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The lethal injection started at 10:53. He turned
his head very slightly to his left the same minute that the lethal
injection started. The next minute, I have him blinking his eyes a little
more -- a little more rapidly for a very brief few seconds.
I have him squeezing his eyes shut for maybe a second and then opening
them again. Then at 10:54, about two minutes -- about a minute after the
lethal injection started, I have him appearing to yawn.
Then around 10:55, it started slowing down, and at 10:58, which was
five minutes after the lethal injection started, they did a consciousness
check to make sure he was unconscious before they start the next two lethal
injection drugs that paralyze his body and stop his heart.
And after that, there was very little -- there was no movement except
for slower breathing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you understand is going to happen with
Mr. Davis` body now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw a Butts (ph) County coroner truck pull up
to the death chamber minutes before we walked in. I`m assuming it is going
to go out in that truck.
SCHULTZ: Members of the Georgia media, eyewitness to an execution of
Troy Anthony Davis, who was pronounced dead tonight at 11:08 Eastern time
in the death chamber at the Jackson, Georgia facility.
Defiant was the word that was used to describe him. A somber mood,
obviously in the chamber, as reported by Jon Lewis from WSB Radio in
Georgia. And talking to his friends and family, a message for them to dig
deeper and find the truth about what happened, and telling the MacPhail
family that he did not have a gun and that he was not responsible for the
death of Officer MacPhail.
I`m joined now by the president and CEO of the NAACP, Ben Jealous,
joining me by phone tonight. Ben, defiant was the word that was used to
describe Troy Anthony Davis. But a very interesting message. And
following these in the past, it seemed that he had more to say than most
people who are about to be executed, asking his friends and family to dig
deeper. How do you receive that tonight, Ben?
BEN JEALOUS, NAACP PRESIDENT AND CEO (on the phone): You know, the --
I think he said everything you would expect Troy Davis to say. This is not
your typical case. This is a case where a man for 22 years has contended
that he is innocent and that every year -- and recently everyday, more and
more information has come forward confirming that.
I first met his sister 15 years ago. And I had my doubts. But as I
dug into the case more, as she dug into the case more, every year, it
became clearer and clearer that she was right, that Troy was telling the
truth. You would expect him to say those three things that we heard that
he said tonight.
You would expect him to say, I am innocent. You would expect him to
say keep digging. And you would expect him, a man of such deep faith, who
quite frankly had grown close to many of the guards -- I mean, there was a
moment the other day when my staff was over visiting and the family was
over visiting, and the guard leaned in and said, please hold it together
for the sake of us, because we`re all sitting here trying to hold it
Guard talked about how his mom was praying for Troy Davis and for
justice to be done here. These guards are human, too. The fact that he
would look at them in the eye and say, may God have mercy on you for what
you have to do, may God bless your souls, speaks to the strong spiritual
conviction that he has.
We should all shutter that it`s possible for the Supreme Court to be
so fixated on the letter of the law, the limits of our Constitution, that
it disrespects the spirit of our great country and actually lets a man be
executed amid so much doubt, when I think it`s so clear to so many that
this man was innocent.
SCHULTZ: Ben Jealous of the NAACP, president and CEO, with us
tonight. The words that he spoke, "dig deeper," will this be a motivating
factor in some sense for those advocacy groups out there that have
maintained that this is just a miscarriage of justice?
What do those words -- what will they really mean to those groups and
people who have followed this, Ben?
JEALOUS: You know, the reality is that this just affirms what many
have come to believe in, which is that, you know, it is time for us to
really question the death penalty in this country in a way that`s final.
We`ve seen it abolished in three states in the last two years, the state of
Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico.
If we can abolish it in ten more, we can abolish it completely in this
country and get America to catch up with the rest of the western world.
But you know, tonight, people are filing out of here. We were in a special
kind of place on the prison grounds for people who were supportive of Troy
and his quest to clear his name.
People left here somber, but they also left her deeply committed. The
reality is that right now, in living rooms across this country, there are
people who woke up this morning knowing that they supported the death
penalty, who have to be questioning, questioning how can I support it when
the instrument can be so blunt that we can execute somebody even when the
former head of the FBI says stop, when the former warden at this prison
says, stop, when right wing Congressman Bob Barr, former prosecutor for
Georgia, says stop and so many others?
But yet we push on blindly not knowing, amid so much doubt, whether
we`re doing the right thing or not. It is terrifying. All we had to do
was see the sentence commuted to life without the possibility of parole and
the family would know that -- one family would know things could be
reversed, truth finally -- we finally got the new trial we had been
fighting for. The other family would know that this man who had been
convicted would not be on the streets, barring his innocence being proved
Now, we have done something which cannot be revoked. We have killed -
- we have killed a man amid just a pile of doubt.
SCHULTZ: Ben Jealous, unequivocally, do you think the state of
Georgia put an innocent man to death tonight?
JEALOUS: Absolutely. Absolutely. I have looked at this case for 15
years. I have reviewed thousands of cases in that period. I have never
seen a case like this. I sat with a woman today on CNN who was terrified
for her life just a few months ago, fled Savannah, Georgia, because a few
years ago, the man who many say is the actual killer threatened her.
Excuse me, a few years ago, he admitted in front of her and many
others that he had actually killed officer MacPhail. When she made it
clear a few months ago that she intended to let the world know that and
that she would support Troy in his quest to save his life, he threatened
her and she was so terrified, she moved her entire family out of Savannah,
While she had come forward to the media once before, she had never
talked about the daily terror that she lives in. And she`s finally done
that, hoping that that will give her a greater sense of protection, if the
world knows that her life is threatened every day. You don`t see that in -
SCHULTZ: Ben, that seems like a terrible injustice, that there would
be no one in our criminal justice system that would follow up and take
action concerning the woman that you`re talking about. This is -- sounds
to me like a horrible failure. Where is the curiosity of the prosecutor in
JEALOUS: Yeah. Where is the commitment to justice? That`s really a
very disturbing thing. The reality is that, you know, there`s a lot of
people that push for years to make sure that we diversify law enforcement.
Here we have a black chair of the Board of Pardons. We have a black D.A.
in Savannah. It`s proof that simply changing the color of the law -- you
know, of law enforcement doesn`t necessarily change the color of justice,
if you will, in this country.
The reality is that we need people in there of all colors, black or
white, who have the courage to do the right thing, and to stand up and say
if there`s doubt, I am not going to execute. When in doubt, don`t. We saw
that from the former warden, but we couldn`t get it from the D.A. or
chairman of the Board of Pardons.
SCHULTZ: President and CEO of the NAACP Ben Jealous with us tonight,
saying that he believes that the state of Georgia has executed an innocent
man. Former Georgia prison warden Allen Alt and our own Rachel Maddow when
we come back. Stay with us. You`re watching MSNBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RHONDA COOK, "ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION": He said the incident
that night was not my fault. I did not have a gun. And that`s when he
told his friends to continue to fight and look deeper into this case so you
can really find the truth. "For those about to take my life, may God have
mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls."
To the MacPhail family, he said, of course, "I did not personally kill
your son, father and brother. I am innocent."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW on MSNBC, in our continuing
coverage of the execution of Troy Davis. Joining us is Allen Ault, retired
director of the Georgia Department of Corrections, and former warden of the
Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, where he oversaw executions
for the state of Georgia.
Mr. Ault, thanks for your time tonight. Please describe what happened
today from your understanding of how this unusually plays out.
ALLEN AULT, FORMER GEORGIA PRISON WARDEN: Well, as commissioner of
corrections, I was involved in several executions. And it`s one thing to
theorize about it or talk about it abstractly, but when you`re in the death
chamber ordering an execution, and even if you -- in your mind, if you`re a
man of conscience, actually believe somebody is guilty, it`s still a very
I mean, it`s scripted and rehearsed. It`s about as premeditated as
any killing you can do. Then, when there is doubt, either way, it exacts a
heavy toll on those who are being charged by the state to execute somebody.
It has hit close to home since in the `70s I was a warden there, and in the
`90s, I was -- as a commissioner of corrections to execute several people.
Several of my colleagues who have been involved in executions in other
states feel as I do. Now, I am a dean of a college of justice. That`s
ironic, but I know all the research and I know how unevenly the death
penalty is applied, the thousands of variables that go into it.
And I know that it does not deter. If somebody asked you to wreak
vengeance for somebody else, I think that`s asking too much. All the
civilized world except the U.S. have banned the death penalty years ago.
When I was a warden at Jackson, the same place that the execution happened,
there had been a ban on the death penalty.
And it wasn`t until 1974 that the first law enacted in Georgia set the
pattern for other states to enact a law that brought it back again.
SCHULTZ: Mr. Ault, there`s tremendous despair in your voice tonight.
I appreciate your time very much. But I have to ask you the same question
I asked Ben Jealous. Draw on your experience and your knowledge, do you
think the state of Georgia executed an innocent man tonight?
AULT: I have no way of knowing that one way or the other. But I
think that we have found so many in the last years, with scientific
advances, that were innocent, that we continue to execute people when there
is doubt, I don`t think that has anything to do with justice.
SCHULTZ: Mr. Ault, what about the unusual circumstances surrounding
all of this? Do you think that that this is -- this case, this event, this
execution tonight is going to change a lot of attitudes in this country?
AULT: Well, at one time, I hoped that would happen. But, you know,
we have presidential candidates who say that signing execution orders
doesn`t bother their conscience at all. So -- but I still think that men
of conscience, it does bother them.
If people were aware of all the facts about capital punishment, I
think logically they would change their mind. Logic does not always
prevail, as you well know.
SCHULTZ: Dr. Ault, stay with us. Let`s bring back Rachel Maddow, who
wants to ask you a question tonight.
MADDOW: Thanks, Ed. I appreciate the chance to do this.
Dr. Ault, I`m grateful to have you with us tonight. You signed on to
a letter to asking Georgia corrections officials to reconsider this case,
specifically highlighting the toll that this would take on corrections
officers and other people in the correction system involved in this
execution, saying that you understand from your own personal experiences
the awful, life-long repercussions that come from participating in the
execution of prisoners.
I wondered if, just in terms of those of us who know and care about
government workers and people who are public servants, working for
corrections departments, if you could describe what you meant by that, the
kind of repercussions this might have for people who work in the system?
AULT: In my experience, I could have stayed in Atlanta, but I chose
to go to Jackson. I didn`t ask staff to do something I wouldn`t do. But I
know that we tried to get psychological and psychiatric help for all the
people that participated.
One day, I understood fully that I was trying to get it for everybody
but me, and then I realized what a heavy toll it had taken on me and my
conscience. I still have reoccurring problems with that.
I`m sure I will the rest of my life. I`ve talked to other colleagues
who have participated as I did in other states or with the federal
government, and those people, people of conscience, had the same type of
struggle that I did. If I thought that it actually deterred -- and I tried
to use that rationale when I was participating, that I thought if I had
saved one life, maybe it was worth it.
But I soon realized that is not what capital punishment is all about.
MADDOW: Dr. Ault, you highlighted in this letter you wrote to
corrections officials in Georgia today, with other wardens of death row
prisons, I should mention -- but you highlighted the particular toll on
correction officials when there is a case of doubt, or when there is a case
of prisoner who is to be executed who maintains his or her innocence until
the very end.
But when I hear you talking about it tonight, I hear you not using
those qualifications just about prisoners who maintain they are innocent.
Do you think that that type of toll for correction staff, the people
involved in executions, is just about executing people, even in cases where
there isn`t doubt about guilt or innocence?
AULT: It exacting a toll whether you believe they`re innocent or
they`re guilty. You`re actually killing somebody. Now, there are people
without conscience, psychopathic type people, some of them politicians, and
sadists who would volunteer. I had letters volunteer to kill people.
But I think the state -- I would hate to see us fall, to be that
depraved that they would let people like that do the execution. I have --
after I reviewed all the research, as a professor and as a dean. and I know
that it does not deter crime.
I can`t see the justification. If we`re just reaping vengeance for
somebody, I don`t see the justification in that either. I talked to a lot
of families of victims who didn`t feel fulfilled after the execution took
place. I can`t speak for all the families of victims, but I know I`ve
talked to many.
SCHULTZ: Dr. Allen Ault and Rachel Maddow, thank you for staying with
us. Coming up next, Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project and Ari Melber
of "The Nation. Our coverage of the execution of Troy Anthony Davis
continues here on MSNBC. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON LEWIS, WSB RADIO: He asked his family and friends to keep
praying, to keep working and keep the faith. Then he said to the prison
staff, the ones he said who are going to take my life -- he said to them,
may God have mercy on your souls. And his last words were to them, "may
God bless your souls."
Then he put his head back down. The procedure began and about 15
minutes later, it was over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW here on MSNBC, and our ongoing
coverage of the execution of Troy Anthony Davis. Joining me now to discuss
the legal aspect of this story is lawyer and columnist of "The Nation"
magazine, Ari Melber. And also joining us on the phone is Barry Scheck,
co-founder of the Innocence Project. Thanks to both of you for joining us
Ari, let`s start with you first. Were there aspects of this case that
made it more of an important one for a stay of execution, despite tonight`s
ARI MELBER, "THE NATION": Absolutely. As several of your guests have
pointed out, one aspect was a change in key eyewitness testimony, people
who at one point believed one thing and later believed another. Another
aspects was, of course, reports, many credible, about the prospect of a
The third aspect, one that we really have to hammer I think here --
and one that I know you`ve brought up repeatedly in your interest in
justice issues -- is the racial aspect, the fact that when you look at the
way the death penalty is used in the United States and when you look at the
way prosecutors pursue these cases, whether it is deliberate or accidental,
whether it is something that we think comes from a direct racial animus or
other types of coincidences or juries, the fact and data is all out there
that shows that the death penalty is disproportionately used many times
That`s an issue that we have to way in addition to all the other tough
issues tonight. The one thing I want to say to you, Ed, you know, you
asked an important question repeatedly tonight about whether an innocent
man was executed. If we take one step back, as we think through all these
issues tonight, we know from the Innocence Project that 273 people have had
post conviction DNA exonerations.
That means that science has told us what juries didn`t, which is that
it turned out they were not guilty. Seventeen of those people, I would
highlight, were at one time on death row. And lastly, 166 of those 273
post-conviction exonerations were people who were African-American.
So that all fits in to the real questions we have to continue to press
about how this system works in the United States.
SCHULTZ: I am so troubled tonight by the fact that there is a woman
that spoke with Ben Jealous, who said that she had been told that her life
was threatened and that she had to move and that she had been told by
someone who said he was the killer. And yet there was no one in the system
that could take that information and follow up on it.
That`s what I find so terribly troubling, that that -- whether this
gentleman was innocent or guilty tonight, that someone wasn`t there to
follow up on it, with all of the different stories and evidence surrounding
it that was not brought forward.
Barry Scheck, how does that play with you, someone who has been in
this profession for so many years and obviously involved in information
coming out after the execution? What about this piece of information
BARRY SCHECK, THE INNOCENCE PROJECT: Ed, I want to add one important
factor to what Ari listed about this case. That has to do with the
ballistics evidence. Everybody agrees -- the Georgia Bureau of
Investigations agrees that the ballistics evidence that was put before the
jury that -- in an effort to tie a gun and a motive to Troy Davis, was
unreliable and should never have gone before the jury.
Unreliable forensic evidence. Indeed, one of the jurors told the
Board of Pardon and Paroles yesterday that if she had known that that
evidence -- ballistics evidence was unreliable, she never would have voted
to execute him. And she said it played a very large role in the jury
I raise that because, remember, the Innocence Project, we have over
270 post-conviction DNA exonerations. In so many of these cases, we
actually find the real perpetrator. But most of them were eyewitness
misidentification, 75 percent. But a lot of them involved unreliable
forensic science as a contributing factor.
There are two case -- two very important cases, Ed, that have to be
covered in the course of this political campaign. One is, of course, the
case of Cameron Todd Willingham, which you have covered, which deals with a
man that Governor Perry executed based on unreliable arson evidence and now
what is shown to be the perjury of testimony of a jailhouse snitch.
Everybody -- the most disinterested legal observers believe that there is
powerful evidence that Willingham was innocent and executed.
But what`s even worse about it is Governor Perry has been engaged in a
concerted campaign to cover up the fact that arson evidence in that case
was unreliable. Now that`s an extremely serious issue.
There was also a case, the last person that George W. Bush executed,
Claude Jones. We went back and found that hair that was key legal evidence
in the case, a post-execution DNA test was done on that and showed that it
wasn`t his. So these are very troubling things that -- .
SCHULTZ: Barry Scheck, I appreciate your time tonight. Ari Melber of
"The Nation" magazine, thank you so much. Thanks for joining us.
Our coverage of the execution of Troy Davis continues.
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