Was Troy Davis guilty: Troy Davis was executed on Wednesday night. This produced a great deal of cable discussion.
But was Troy Davis actually guilty? It depends on what paper you read.
If you read the Washington Post, you learned that Davis was guilty. Charles Lane produced this highly unintelligent column insisting that Davis was obviously guilty as charged.
Lane's overpowering sense of certainty stamps him (again) as strangely unintelligent. On the other hand, he did read the 174-page report by Chief Judge William Moore of the U.S. District Court in Savannah, the Clinton appointee who heard Davis' new evidence in June 2010 and found it severely wanting. (He even provides a link.)
Also in Friday's Post, Gene Robinson said Davis was "probably guilty." He cited the findings by judges like Moore down through the years.
But if you read the New York Times, you got a different story. The headline on Wednesday's editorial called the impending execution "a grievous wrong." Among other things, you read this:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL (9/21/11): Seven of nine witnesses against Mr. Davis recanted after trial. Six said the police threatened them if they did not identify Mr. Davis. The man who first told the police that Mr. Davis was the shooter later confessed to the crime. There are other reasons to doubt Mr. Davis's guilt: There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime introduced at trial, and new ballistics evidence broke the link between him and a previous shooting that provided the motive for his conviction.Say what? The man who first told the police that Mr. Davis was the shooter later confessed to the crime? And Davis was executed anyway?
What happened to the guy who confessed? The editors didn't say.
Lane's piece was defiantly unintelligent. The Times editorial wasn't much better. And guess what? Searching through the help of Nexis, we can find no news report in either newspaper which attempted to lay out the evidence. If anything, the work on cable was worse, a point we'll revisit next week.
So how about it:
Was Troy Davis innocent? Guilty? Our journalistic culture is very weak. In this much-debated case, our biggest news orgs made no real attempt to say.