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Martin Sewell: A tale of two executions

Martin Sewell is a family Solicitor and an Anglican Reader.6a00d83451b31c69e2014e8929fa51970d-150wi 

The death penalty is an emotive and difficult subject.

For the past two days the BBC Today programme has carried the story of the execution of Troy Davis in the United States, on both occasions presenting two aspects of the story, first that “many people thought he was innocent” and second that he was “African American”.

It was hard to hear the story without feeling a measure of disquiet and yet sadly I have come to realise that I will never receive a fully rounded coverage of this story from the flagship news programme of our National Broadcaster. 

I wish to be fair: the website is a little fuller in its coverage and you may read more here.

Even here, however the racial aspect was not removed. You would not know from reading this that the first man whom Davis shot on the night of the crime was black, as were seven out of the twelve jurors and most of the 34 witnesses called by the State against Mr Davis.

The Supreme Court Justice who denied his final stay of execution was Clarence Thomas. Only if you you follow US current affairs might you know that Clarence Thomas was not only the second black member to be appointed to the Supreme Court but one whose appointment was bitterly opposed by many “liberals” who are normally extremely exercised to “celebrate diversity”.

If liberal commentators want to argue that there is a disparity in the proportion of black murderers executed compared to white murderers I will fully agree with them. That is not however an argument to say that injustice was done in this or any other case. 

I knew that in due course I would hear the other side of the story, and last night my favourite US commentator Ann Coulter gave an alternative view of the execution, its justice and its cultural context. You may read it for yourself and contrast it with the BBC version of the story.

Ann Coulter is a polemicist. She is also a lawyer and rarely cavalier with basic facts on such matters.

I do not think however that anyone can read and contrast her piece with the coverage of the BBC,  without sharing my disquiet that the self-styled  ‘most trusted news organisation in the world” has not been entirely straight with us on this subject. Surely somebody was available at some point to explain the prosecution case.

I don’t enjoy my role of constant critic of the BBC but there is something rotten in the core of its news values when it fails fulfill its brief of impartiality.

If it wants to be Fox News then I have no problem - but lets then even up the playing field.

Meanwhile, here is a story they appear to have missed. I doubt they will find room for it.

Today Gaby Hinsliffe tweeted:

Screen shot 2011-09-22 at 09.33.03


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