On Sept. 21, the state of Georgia committed an atrocity against humanity that should be held as an example of how flawed and broken the practice of capital punishment is. The state executed Troy Davis, 42, for the 1980 murder of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Georgia.
At the time of the original trial, seven witnesses stated they had seen Davis kill MacPhail in cold blood and two more witnesses stated they had heard Davis confess to the shooting. With this evidence, a jury of Davis’ peers convicted him for the murder, sentencing him to death, despite Davis’ consistent claims that not only did he not commit the murders but that he had no gun.
Sounds like an open and shut case right? A man committed murder, another man is dead, a widow is left to grieve, someone should pay and Troy Davis paid the ultimate price for the ultimate mistake. However, it’s not that simple. It is never that simple when capital punishment or a person’s life is involved.
Several of those witnesses who said Davis was at the scene of the crime later recanted their stories, stating that Davis may not have been the gunman or even was at the Burger King parking lot where the murders were committed. Others even said another man had confessed to the murder. In the end, multiple jurors said they would have changed their votes and would have advocated an innocence ruling for Davis. Seven of the nine witnesses whom the prosecution had based their case around had disputed their previous claims. Does this sound like ‘beyond a reasonable doubt?’
Due to these developments, thousands of people came out in support of Davis and his cause, including Pope Benedict XVI, a former FBI director and President Jimmy Carter. Thousands marched around the globe hoping to somehow change the inevitable, declaring “I am Troy Davis.” However, their best efforts were no match for an unfair inhuman punishment system.
I understand the desire for revenge and the desire for true justice, but how can the taking of another’s life, where the very evidence of their guilt is literally crumbling with each passing day make anything truly better? If you really wished for revenge, would you want to get revenge on someone you weren’t 100 percent sure caused the hurt?
These passionate feelings in this article aren’t purely based on personal beliefs, but a belief in the court system and the law. Last year the Supreme Court last year ordered a hearing on a request by Davis’ lawyers for a new trial, the first time they had done so in over 50 years. The very order of a hearing shows doubt about the legitimacy of the trial that convicted a man to death and should have been a sign that maybe a second trial, to just double check the previous ruling, should have occurred. However, at 11:08 p.m. Troy Davis was put to death.
I hope this case makes us think more about killing. Killing as a form of government punishment on a citizen and killing in general. Two men, MacPhail and Davis, now are dead because of something that never should have happened in the first place. MacPhail’s life was taken from him cruelly and unfairly, and now same goes for Troy Davis.