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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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war