The fourth attempt by the State of Georgia to execute Troy Davis

There is international concern at today’s planned execution.

Troy Davis is due to be killed by officials of the State of Georgia in only a matter of hours. He will be strapped down and receive a lethal injection. This death has now been approved by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. This State Board, members of who boast of their involvement in religious activities in their on-line biographies, exists in part to authorise the deaths of their fellow human beings. Troy Davis is just the latest to have his execution approved.

The deliberate taking of life as any kind of punishment is wrong at all times, and in all circumstances. It does not matter if the execution is widely publicised or if it is not. And it also does not matter whether there has been some effort at due process, or no effort at propriety at all. As George Orwell describes in A Hanging, perhaps his most brilliant and moving essay, there is an "unspeakable wrongness" about the judicial taking of any life. All executions are vile; each one is absolutely wrong.

Nonetheless, the case of Troy Davis is widely regarded as exceptional, and it has attracted international attention and condemnation. There appear to have been serious irregularities in both the investigation and at trial. It is said that seven of the nine witnesses at the original trial have now recanted evidence and that someone else has confessed to the original crime. All these disturbing factors are emphasised in today's powerful editorial in the New York Times.

Today is now the fourth execution date that has been set for Troy Davis. Previously his life has been temporarily spared by operation of the criminal justice system. But there is only so far appeals can seek to check what seems to be an irresistible force of a process intent on ending life. And this is not some impersonal and abstract process: it is a sequence of decisions and non-decisions by identifiable people with moral agency.

Even if one adopts the horrific misconception of justice that a human life can somehow be taken as a punishment, this is surely not the sort of case where a person should be put to death. In the United States those in favour of capital punishment in principle ("as long as they are guilty") are speaking out against its application in this particular instance. It appears a man will die when there are well-grounded concerns as to his innocence: the State of Georgia is just going to kill him anyway.

Amnesty International has a campaign site for those who wish to try and prevent this execution which I encourage you to visit. An email in support may even make a difference. They may be a last-hour reprieve. But it does look as if the State of Georgia will kill Troy Davis at its fourth attempt.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman. This blog also appears on Jack of Kent.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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