Mar 302011
Authors: Courtney Stuard

Troy Davis, an African American death row inmate, was denied a request of appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court, on Monday. In 1991, Davis began his stay in Georgia’s death row penitentiary, where he is serving a sentence for allegedly murdering an off-duty police officer.

Since the original trial, seven of the nine witnesses who testified against Davis have recanted their testimony, and the murder weapon was never found. Upon those grounds, Davis petitioned for a delay of sentence and a chance to prove his innocence. The refusal means Davis will likely be executed for a crime he may not have committed.

The denial of Davis’s appeal for his life surfaces an unsettling issue that perhaps we seldom contemplate: Is the U.S. criminal justice system really just?

First, injustice stems from an incorrect mindset. Often times we forget that not everyone in prison is actually guilty. That idea originates from the fact that we forget that under the U.S. justice system, everyone appearing in court is innocent until proven guilty and has the constitutional right to a fair and unbiased trial.

But bias pervades the system and effectively allays justice for many citizens. Discrimination of all kinds persists in the criminal justice system, and the second place where injustice presides is within the police force.

On March 16, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division released an investigative report on the New Orleans police department. The 158-page document lists vociferous violations which include, but are not limited to: racial and ethnic profiling, under enforcement of punishment for violence against women, practices against GLBT individuals, failure to provide police services to people who do not speak English, and frequent use of excessive force. All of those practices blatantly violate the constitutionally ensured rights of individuals.

Third, laws across America have historically had discriminatory effects. For example, the War on Drugs has led to the imprisonment of a disproportionately large number of minorities. A 1992 study launched by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that, in 17 states, not a single white individual had been prosecuted on federal crack cocaine charges. The same commission estimated that approximately 65 percent of crack users are white, but in 1992, 92.6 percent of those convicted for crack cocaine use or distribution were black, while only 4.7 percent were white.

Although the numbers are old, if the same study were conducted today, the results would arguably have no significant change because almost nothing has been done to correct the historical prejudice that minorities fit the profile of a typical drug user.

Lastly, the criminal justice system is inherently flawed because the elected government itself is unjust. A recent example of that is evident in the actions of N.Y. Representative Peter King. King used the court as a forum for racial scapegoating of Muslims as a threat to national security.

Moreover, the government kills hundreds of thousands of people but calls its actions foreign policy, rendering the government above the law and beyond reproach. If another person were to take someone else’s life, it would be murder, but the government does so under the auspices of foreign intervention. Is this not hypocrisy? Justice will only preside in a society when all individuals and governments are held accountable for their actions.

In conclusion, the criminal justice system fails to equally protect all U.S. citizens. From the police force, to laws, to elected officials and government practices, the justice system does not render justice for all. The Supreme Court showed its commitment to “justice” when it denied Davis a retrial, despite the reasonable doubt that he was guilty. As a consequence, he will indefinitely face death by lethal injection.

Courtney Stuard is a senior journalism major. Her column appears on Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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