September 24, 2008
Troy Davis and the death penalty
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution for Troy Davis, two hours before he was to be put to death. (Background here.) Davis’s case encapsulates so much of why I object to the death penalty:
- It affects people of color and poor people disproportionately. (I realize that the link doesn’t actually have anything to do with Troy Davis; it’s simply an illustration.)
- There’s no guarantee that the person being put to death is actually the person responsible for the crime. Yes, sometimes it’s obvious, an open-and-shut case, etc. Other times, however, it’s much more complicated. In Troy Davis’s case, “There was no physical evidence against him and the weapon used in the crime was never found. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even at the time of the trial. Since then, all but two of the state’s non-police witnesses from the trial have recanted or contradicted their testimony. Many of these witnesses have stated in sworn affidavits that they were pressured or coerced by police into testifying or signing statements against Troy Davis.”
- It’s inhumane. Can you imagine having your death scheduled, knowing it’s coming, then having the execution postponed within hours of when it’s supposed to happen? Can you imagine having that happen to you twice, as it has now happened to Troy Davis? I imagine it’s a relief, to be sure, but at the same time, your execution has not been called off, merely postponed.
On Monday, the Supreme Court will “decide whether to hear Davis’ appeal of a ruling issued by the Georgia Supreme Court in March.” I hope they will agree with the Chief Justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court, Leah Ward Sears:
“If recantation testimony, either alone or supported by other evidence, shows convincingly that prior trial testimony was false, it simply defies all logic and morality to hold that it must be disregarded categorically,” she wrote.