Thursday, September 22, 2011

Legalized murder

I posted about this last night at DetNews but that was before his final chance at clemency was exhausted. Last night at 11:08pm, Troy Davis was legally murdered by the state of Georgia. Even after 22 years of litigation, the evidence strongly suggests Troy Davis was most likely innocent. Which also means the real perp, literally, just got away with murder.

But even if Troy Davis was guilty, what purpose does killing him serve in the interests of justice? Indeed, last night a guilty man was similarly executed in Texas and in Alabama another human being is slated to be killed by our own government. The questions stands for all of them. How does having the state commit the same crime serve civil society? The answer is, of course, it doesn't. The death penalty is a barbaric form of revenge that has no place in the civilized world.

I'm reminded today of a death penalty case I worked on for years in my time at the law firm. We won that case. Our client walked off of death row. That felt good even though our guy did commit a crime. But there were mitigating circumstances. He had the IQ of a child. He was basically tricked into participating. So yes, he deserved to be punished but he did not deserve to die for it.

But even those whose crimes may be so heinous, and guilt firmly established without doubt, who may well "deserve" to die, does not give us the right to choose the hour of their death. Death dealt at the hands of the government is still murder. How can we as a civilized society condone answering a crime with the same exact crime?

And beyond that, our system is not infallible. When we justify murdering the clearly guilty in the name of justice, we open the door for the innocent to be wrongly executed. In the end, Troy Davis could be any one of us and as he said in his final statement, "There are so many more Troy Davis'." That's not just the rhetoric of a condemned man, the list of wrongly convicted death row inmates in the United States is long. That alone should tell us that this sort of savage retribution is long overdue to be abolished entirely.

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