An American ad guy finally speaks out on the death penalty.

There has been much discussion about the pending execution of Troy Davis here in the United States.

I’m not familiar with the case but enough important people have put their good names on the line for me to wish the judicial system would err on the side of caution here.

Here’s why.

Years ago, the late 80s to be precise, i got involved in a seemingly hopeless campaign to free four mass murderers from prison in the UK.

They had killed 5 people in a series of IRA pub bombings in the UK in the mid 1970s.

Only they hadn’t.

They were completely innocent.

But the enormous political pressure to get a conviction in the case had led to four innocents being railroaded and convicted.

At their sentencing, the presiding judge expressed regret that the UK had recently abolished the death penalty and that he couldn’t impose it on these four young individuals.

Cut to 16 years later.

I’m outside the Old Bailey courthouse as these now four middle-aged people are released from jail. completely absolved of the crimes they spent 16 years in jail for.

They later made a movie about this case. It was called IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER.

These four innocent people would surely have hanged if England had the death penalty in 1974.

If that doesn’t give you pause for thought, nothing will.

I should point out that the campaign to release the Guildford Four was largely led and managed by English civil servants and their English lawyer Gareth Pearce was very accurately portrayed by Emma Thompson in the film.

7 responses to “An American ad guy finally speaks out on the death penalty.

  1. Absolutely Vinnie. It looks as though they (the ubiquitous “they”) have gone ahead and executed what most evidence seems to point to as an innocent man. Why?
    Wonderful movie, and in addition to Emma Thompson, the late Peter Postlethwaite and Daniel Day Lewis were fantastic.

    • it was an exhilarating time ciaran. i got lucky really. i joined the campaign six months before they got out of jail. i had seen their moms onstage pleading for support at the FLEADH in Finsbury Park.

      my sister was working at the BBC and told me they were getting out of jail. they’d gotten word. I worked in Farringdon, so i just walked down to the Old Bailey. never seen so many cops in my life. and nobody even knew.

      it was all just like the movie.

      christy moore did a gig in london a month later and we were all invited to the best seats. and he called us out. it was a very emotional moment. all the Guildford Four were there.

  2. Good for you Vinnie for getting involved. That must have been quite a day at the Old Balley. I was in Birmingham when the two pubs were bombed. My boss at the firm of solicitors where I was then working, picked up one of the alleged bombers on the duty solicitor roster. Needless to say the firm received all manner of death threats and the like.

    I was in court the day they were brought up for bail hearings. They looked pretty well beaten up. It was said the warders had left them in a room and sent in the ‘hard men’. In 1991, like the Guildford Four, they were exonerated.

  3. yes simon, i vividly recall Gerry Conlon, who came out the front gate of the Old Bailey just like in the movie, shouting the innocence of the Birmingham Six to the cameras.

    I actually made friends with one of the daughters of one of the Birmingham Six who lived in london. The campaigns were intertwined.

    i felt really sorry for all the families. working class people whose lives had been shattered by a miscarriage of justice.

    they were very stoic by the time i joined the campaign. they had been doing this for sixteen years. they were kind of losing hope. they had exhausted all appeals.

    When they finally got out it was beyond cathartic. just amazing.

    And well done to ITV documentary team for their amazing docs on the G4 and B6. They really helped too.

  4. did they ever find the real perps???

    • Yes Tom. the IRA guys who planted the bombs were trapped a few years later in dramatic fashion in London. they readily admitted their crimes and proclaimed the G4’s innocence, but the Guildford Four were in jail by then and justice had been served so nobody paid any attention.

  5. A long, long time ago I was on a debate team in school and the topic for the year was The Death Penalty.
    The affirmative side had to defend: Resolved that the Death Penalty should be abandoned.
    I found that the most convincing (and winning) argument for the judges was the notion that the death penalty was irrevocable, and that if a mistake was made (people, juries, judges being fallible), no recompense was possible. Whereas with life imprisonment, at least it was possible to repay the innocent in some way for the incarceration. That is, if the innocence is found out in time.
    Of course in debate, you are often saddled with the need to take the other side even if you don’t believe it. And one time, arguing the negative, I ran into my own positive argument from some annoying team. In the cross-questioning period, the opponent kept saying “You can never be certain, you can never be certain. Give me a case where there is absolute certainty truly beyond any doubt that the accused committed the murder.”
    “Ok. Jack Ruby,” I said, “But there were 65 million eyewitnesses to the crime.”

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