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Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed, by lethal injection, on Wednesday, September 21, 2011. On August 19, 1989, Mr Davis was found guilty in the shooting death of Savannah, Georgia Police Officer Marc MacPhail.  Mr Davis is now 42 and has been in jail for twenty years.  But there is doubt concerning his guilt.

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So, let us please go back to the trial of O. J. Simpson, a former football star and an actor, who was accused of killing his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and an innocent bystander, Ronald Goldman.

It started with a police chase worthy of a Hollywood film.  Mr Simpson tried to escape driving a white Ford Bronco. This was a spectacular beginning to Mr Simpson’s trial and, to a large extent, matters remained spectacular.

The trial of O.J. Simpson lasted nine months, from January 9 to October 3, 1995, and was televised in full.  In a sense it was a forerunner to current “reality” shows.  When the police caught up with Mr Simpson, he had “lawyered up.”  So it was quickly established that, if found guilty, O.J. Simpson would not be executed.

Mr Simpson then gathered a team of lawyers whose names will go down in history for their brilliant defense.  Given his fame and wealth, Mr Simpson could afford Robert Kardashian, Johnny Cochran, Robert Shapiro, F. Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz and Barry Scheck, and this “dream team” lived up to its reputation.

Basically, all the “dream team” had to do to save their client was to introduce an element of doubt.  The DNA evidence pointed to guilt on the part of Mr Simpson, so viewers expected a guilty verdict.  However, when Barry Scheck heard the testimony of the DNA specialist, he managed to turn the trial around.  He suggested that the DNA evidence that was being used to establish guilt on the part of O.J. Simpson had been contaminated by the Los Angeles Police Department’s crime scene investigators.

As a result, possible guilt on the part of Mr Simpson was suddenly shifted from the accused to the Los Angeles Police Department.  At that point, the trial gained a surreal dimension and retained this dimension when Mr Simpson tried on the infamous glove. The glove did not fit, but that could be explained.  It had been wetted, causing it to shrink as it dried.  Moreover, sufficient time had elapsed between the day of the alleged crime to the day the glove was brought into evidence for the glove to shrink further.  Had the glove fit, O.J. Simpson’s lawyers may have been surprized.

Marcia Clark, the main prosecutor, was not surrounded by a dream team of lawyers. Consequently, it was not established scientifically that the glove did not fit because wet leather gloves shrink and because leather gloves shrink if they are not worn.
That glove should have been placed in a protected environment. That precious element of doubt had therefore been introduced.  O.J. Simpson was found not guilty.

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It appears that there is reasonable doubt in the case of Troy Davis.  However, on August 19, 1989, the day Troy Davis was found guilty of the shooting death of police officer Marc MacPhail, he did not have by his side a lawyer of stature, a Barry Scheck.

Indeed, what of that element of doubt?  It is there.

I have therefore reflected that there may be several cases when a person stands no further than one good lawyer away the death penalty.

Whether or not he has killed, I hope an angel will help Mr Davis cross the narrow distance, a mere thread, between the finite and the infinite.

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September 18, 2011