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Troy Davis is scheduled to be murdered by the state of Georgia tonight at 7pm EDT. I say "murdered" rather than "executed" because murder is what it really is. It is the intentional taking of another person's life by the state. There is no bigger government than this. None. And yet, it is because Georgia is a conservative state that it is more or less assured that a man who may possibly be innocent, around whose guilt there is much doubt, will not receive any mercy from the state.
The Troy Davis case was staged—pure theater. I do not mean "staged" because the case has attracted worldwide attention and high-profile supporters. Nor do I refer here to the drama surrounding the Georgia Board of Pardons, which at the 11th hour denied clemency again this morning, so that Davis faces execution tomorrow—despite powerful evidence of his innocence. By "staged" I mean that the eyewitness evidence at the core of his original criminal trial was, quite literally, staged by the police.
The federal court that finally reviewed evidence of Davis' innocence agreed "this case centers on eyewitness testimony." Yet that court put to one side the fact that seven of the nine witnesses at the trial have now recanted, and new witnesses have implicated another man. The court did so while failing to carefully examine how eyewitnesses ultimately came to identify Davis as the man who shot a police officer intervening in a fight at a Burger King parking lot. The Troy Davis case—which raises a wide array of flaws in our death penalty system, our post-conviction system, and the politics of criminal justice—is thus also a case about malleability of eyewitness memory and police misconduct.
I will personally attest to the fallibility of eyewitness testimony. I had the order of events right, I had one of the players right, but I had the victim wrong. And I had pictures taken in real time!
And yet Troy Davis will not get that benefit of the doubt. To review, there is not one iota of physical evidence. Not one. No gunpowder residue on the hands, no ownership of the weapon, nothing. There is confusing, contradictory eyewitness testimony.
Troy Davis has volunteered to take a polygraph test before they kill him. I believe it will make no difference. Davis will be executed, because that's what some people think he deserves.
But my original question remains. Do we, as a society, deserve to be stained with the blood of a possibly-innocent man? What message does it send to choose death over life in prison? And as Rachel Maddow points out in the video at the top, they are going to inject drugs into his system that aren't even intended for humans.
When they do that, we will all be Troy Davis.
I believe all capital punishment is wrong. That's my bias. I do not believe the state should ever have the right to decide which of its citizens lives or dies. When they kill a prisoner in my name, they toss his blood in my face. When they kill a prisoner where there is as much doubt as there is in Troy Davis' case, they toss it in all our faces. They are calling injustice, justice.
My heart goes out to the family of the victim of this crime -- the MacPhail family. They lost a loved one, and should be respected. But as one family member to another, I also caution them to realize they will not feel as though justice has been done when they inject Davis and kill him. They will only feel the loss they felt the minute before he was injected.
There is no closure. There is only loss.
[The AJC has a FAQ about Davis' legal avenues. There are none. The only way this murder will not happen is if prison employees refuse to administer the injection.]