So why am I against the death penalty? The case of Troy Davis is probably the best answer. This case demonstrates beyond any doubt that the State is not competent enough to fairly assess who should live and who should die.
This week the Supreme Court was asked to decide if it was exceptable to execute a man even if there is reasonable doubt as to their guilt. Their decision was…yes…it’s perfectly acceptable to kill a man who may very well be innocent.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t know if Mr. Davis guilty or not. But the thing is, neither does the state of Georgia. Troy Davis is accused of killing a police officer. When the state presented its case they offered no physical evidence. No weapon, no DNA, no fingerprints, nothing. Their case rest on nine witnesses testifying against Mr. Davis. Granted, nine witnesses is pretty damning.
But since then, seven of the nine witnesses recanted their testimony. Five of the recanting witnesses claim that they were coerced into testifying by the police. We know from other incidents that this claim is plausible. Police have even been able to coerce confessions from innocent people, as has been demonstrated in Chicago just recently.
Could these witnesses be lying? Of course. But it does not matter. The fact that they may be telling the truth is enough to offer reasonable doubt. The state of Georgia may, in fact, be committing state sanctioned murder in the case of Troy Davis, and as a people we cannot condone that with our actions or with our inaction.
The death penalty is one of the last vestiges of medievalism that the United States needs to shed. Yes, the argument can be made that those who kill others deserve to die. Yeah, I’ll buy that. I think those who take innocent life deserve to die. It’s hard to face the indefensible claims that a John Wayne Gacey or Ted Bundy did not deserve the death penalty. Of course they did.
The question is whether the state, or any human system, is inerrant enough to make that decision. I would suggest that it is not. So despite what these monsters may or may not deserve, it is better to keep them in prison (and yes, pay their way) than it is to accept the possibility of the innocent being executed.
The Troy Davis case should wake the American people up to the level of medieval justice that we have devolved into.