Troy Davis was executed last night. All indications are that there is significant room for doubt as to his guilt. He was convicted solely on the basis of nine separate eyewitness testimonies, seven of which have retracted their testimony. Of the other two, one has remained completely silent since the trial, and the other is an odds-on favorite for the actual killer. This is what we knew, prior to injecting him with a life-taking chemical. If this is what we had known prior to his conviction, he would not have been convicted in a legal system that relies on a “reasonable doubt” standard. If there is no reasonable doubt in what we now know, then the words “reasonable” and “doubt” don’t mean what I learned in law school.
Troy Davis is not an isolated case. Black men are routinely executed in America on flimsy evidence, primarily because they are not considered equals to the rest of society. We’ve killed another nigger! Who cares?
I’m a lawyer, and this just makes me want to hand in my license. To think we, as a society, don’t have the ability or the compassion to delay an execution simply because it’s been scheduled as a matter of political expediency, on the oft chance that maybe we got it wrong the first time around, just causes me such despair for my country, and specifically the legal system I work in, that I want to give up. What is wrong with us that we rush headlong into blood-thirsty revenge, when there clearly is reason to put the brakes on? Why are there Americans who cheer when the topic of executions comes up? If that was your son or daughter being executed, would you be so quick to cheer? On the other side of the equation, if it was your son or daughter who was the victim of the crime, would you feel like you had obtained justice by executing an innocent man?
It doesn’t make sense either way for me. If there’s doubt of this magnitude, or any magnitude, how can we collectively live with ourselves? How do we sleep at night? He actually may be the killer, and perhaps he deserves to be executed. But do we know that for a fact given these recantations? I know the Federal court that heard the latest said that the new evidence was all smoke and mirrors. How does seven recantations comprise smoke and mirrors? Forget the smoke. Forget the mirrors. Put a microscope on it and figure it out. That’s what justice does. Isn’t he human enough to deserve a delay while we sort it out? Apparently not.
What really strikes my hypocrisy nerve with a direct hit is that the very people who cheer for this or any execution are also the same people who believe that government, all government, is not to be trusted, is in fact incompetent, and should be diminished in size and influence in America – except when it comes to executions. Then it makes no mistakes. Then it’s “Yo-Ho-Ho and a bottle of rum”, make ‘em walk the plank!
Oh, and these supporters of an eye-for-an-eye also tend to be “pro-life” (a term which has little meaning in this context). Christianity didn’t seem to be able to apply its presumed, yet ineffective morality at times like this. Even the Pope was useless (one of the few times he and I agreed with each other – not that he’d care). Maybe Christians took heart in the born-again Christian stance Troy assumed during his ordeal with the criminal justice system? Perhaps they felt that it was better for him to meet his maker than waste the time trying to find justice for him here on earth. The five Catholics on the Supreme Court seemed to agree.
I hope I never have a case before the Supreme Court. I will find it hard to treat some of them with any respect.