I know I’m on vacation and I’m supposed to be relaxing. But the Troy Davis case has grabbed my attention and I cannot break myself away from news reports of this story.
I was 7 when this shooting occurred. I was 9 when his trial took place. I have had no knowledge of this case until the past few years when I began seeing stories crop up in the paper. I didn’t get actively interested in the case until a few weeks ago. I don’t know the people involved in this case. I don’t know this man. This post isn’t commentary on his guilt or innocence.
Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed tonight, a little more than an hour from now, for the 1989 shooting of off-duty police office Mark MacPhail.
This is the third time Davis’ execution has been scheduled in the past 5 years. Twice his execution has been stayed.
There is no video surveillance footage. There is no DNA evidence. There are no fingerprints. There is no murder weapon. There are shell casings from two shootings that appear to have come from the same gun but new methods of ballistics testing point toward the original ballistics report being faulty and/or invalid.
In the years since Davis’ original trial in 1991, seven of the nine “eye”witnesses whose testimonies were used to convict Davis have recanted or changed their testimonies. One new person has come forward to say that someone else, a companion of Davis’, confessed to pulling the trigger one night while he was drunk.
Eyewitness testimony isn’t reliable because of the influence of suggestion. In this case, one woman identified Davis in the dark at a distance of 120 feet away. Another man said he could only be 60% certain it had been Davis who’d pulled the trigger. And two more who couldn’t identify his face. And those are their initial testimonies from 1989/1991.
And people are still clamoring for the life of Davis to be taken as “justice” for MacPhail’s murder. MacPhail’s family is convinced that “justice” will be done when Davis is executed tonight.
One of the prosecutors in the case is quoted in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution as saying “the appearance of doubt [in this case] has taken on a life of its own–as if it is doubt itself.”
I’m no lawyer, but the appearance of doubt, to me at least, is doubt. And knowing there’s doubt about whether or not this man is guilty means that I cannot fathom proceeding with this execution.
I feel more certain that Casey Anthony was and should’ve been found guilty than I do that this man should die tonight. And she got the benefit of reasonable doubt in her not guilty verdict.
I never thought I’d find myself agreeing with Reverend Al Sharpton, but we cannot bring the death penalty in cases where the only evidence to convict a person is eyewitness testimony. If we’re going to take a life in exchange for a life, we better make damned sure we’re taking the right life.
That’s right–I’m not strictly against the death penalty. Not yet, at least. Though Dan says I’ll be there soon. But I am against the death penalty when you can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person set to die is the person whose life should be taken. And I don’t believe that certainty exists here.
Tonight my heart is heavy for a man I’ve never met, not because I think he’s innocent, but because my state is about to execute a man who MAY be innocent so they don’t have to admit that maybe they got it wrong. That maybe several people across multiple levels of government got it wrong.
I mean, it’s just not possible that multiple people can be wrong about the same thing, right? That never happens.
I think of The Crucible and Deputy Governor Danforth, a character who was so wrapped up in his own power that even when he knew things were getting out of hand, he couldn’t stop the proceedings and call off the executions because doing so would make him seem weak in the eyes of the public. And he had aspirations to move up in the political world. He couldn’t sacrifice his own image if it meant saving the life of innocent people.
And then I think of Fahrenheit 451 when a stranger is killed in place of Guy Montag because the police can’t admit to the public that they lost their suspect. They must show “justice” in real-time on the morning news.
I know it’s not exactly the same, but I wonder how much of that is happening here and has happened in other cases like this one. How many times the desires of a few have taken precedence over the life of one because we MUST have someone to take the fall.
I don’t know what it’s like to lose a loved one to a violent crime. I can’t imagine what that’s like and hope I never find out. I hope nothing ever happens to me so that my family has to find out.
But I know–I know as sure as I know my name–that taking someone else’s life would in no way diminish or alleviate my personal loss. I know that if something happened to me, I would not want my family seeking the death penalty. Especially not in a case like this one.
Taking the life of someone else will never restore the life that was lost.