We Are All Troy Davis

22 September 2011
First morning in ages that BabyG has napped, allowing me to shower at a decent hour and get on with things, and I can't stop watching coverage of the now-delayed pending execution of Troy Davis. It brings back memories of the 2005 execution (scroll down) of Australian man Van Tuong Nguyen - the sickening helpless feeling of waste, pointlessness and the horror of the state committing murder. Whilst the death penalty is never justified, the difference in that case was that Van Nguyen was guilty of the crime he was executed for, although he did not deserve to die for it. Troy Davis is innocent, almost certainly, with no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and one of the two witnesses who testified against him who hasn't retracted their testimony looking like a very credible suspect for the crime Davis was convicted of.

You don't even have to be against the death penalty itself to oppose this execution. The death penalty itself is horrific enough, its mundane details and practicalities chilling - the condemned prisoner is not only kept on suicide watch, so as not to deprive the state its revenge, but actually given a check up by a doctor to ensure they are fit for execution ("no, you'll have to live, you're to sick to kill"). But even if you believe the death penalty is warranted, say, for someone who kills a child, it is quite another thing to execute someone when there is so much doubt in the case. Troy Davis should not be saved in and of himself because he recanted, found Jesus, does good work in jail; but because it seems sure that he simply did not commit the crime he may die for.

The family of Mark McPhail, the murdered off-duty police officer whom Davis is convicted of killing, would doubtless say they are the real victims here. The are convinced of Davis' guilt, and adamant the execution should proceed. I feel very sorry for them, but it's hard to understand their faith in Davis' conviction. When you have been so greatly wronged, so grieved, humans have a natural urge to seek what they see as justice, to right the wrong in the natural order of things. For McPhail's family to concede that Davis is not guilty would leave them with no focus for their pain; they must think the execution will give them some closure. They are sadly wrong. A man - let alone an innocent man - does not need to die to prove the extent of their suffering. If this execution goes ahead, and they later have doubts - if later there is another conviction, more evidence, proof - what then? Then they become the victims of one murder and to an extent, the accomplices to another.

As I write, it's 150 minutes past Davis' scheduled execution time. A delay has been issued whilst the U.S. Supreme court considers an appeal. It seems that Davis could still be executed at any time - the live coverage is continuing. We just don't know what's going on right now, reports are that Davis is on the gurney now, awaiting the word. I think I'm going to be sick. How can anyone i the world think this is okay?

EDIT: of course as we all now know Davis was executed later that day.  I'll just add this:
"What then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared. For there to be an equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal, who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him, and who from that moment onward had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life." - Albert Camus "Reflections on the Guillotine" 1957.


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