Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis

One of the most common criticisms of the death penalty is the risk of making mistakes. Even with the best of intentions and all the safeguards, any justice system will be imperfect. Wrongful convictions will happen. And when you have capital punishment, the consequences of those convictions will be fatal and irreversible.

The world has just been delivered a perfect example of this in the form of Troy Davis. In 1989, Davis was convicted of shooting a police officer and sentenced to death. In the years since, seven of the nine witnesses relied upon for that conviction have recanted, saying their testimony was false and had been coerced by police. One of the two remaining witnesses is the primary alternative suspect. This mass recantation and police misconduct raises serious doubts about the conviction. In a fair justice system, it would be cause for a retrial or an acquittal. Sadly, the US does not have a fair justice system in death penalty cases, and so Davis was executed just a few hours ago.

Capital punishment is obscene under any circumstances. But killing someone when there is so much doubt about their case is doubly so. It doesn't look like justice - it looks like murder.