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The execution of Troy Davis

The execution of Troy Davis

After a back and forth day of an execution being on and on hold, Troy Davis was put to death by lethal injection as he proclaimed his innocence.

Beyond questions of whether the death penalty is ever warranted (The Episcopal Church has affirmed over and over again a position against the death penalty), the very least that can be said concerning this execution is that there are many conflicting opinions as to Davis’ guilt.

The prosecution insisted that they convicted the killer (although one can argue that within today’s legal system the prosecution would never say anything else than this). The family of the victim insisted that justice would be served with Davis’ execution: no doubt wanting “closure” with the death of the man they were told murdered their loved one.

The media, however, has reported that a number of the witnesses who testified against Davis have since changed or contradicted their testimonies. There is little physical evidence: and none that definitively shows Davis to be guilty. There are questions to the ways that race and economics have played into the trial and conviction. And there is the state parole board review board who originally granted a stay of the execution in 2007. Three of those members of the board have since been replaced. Even so, the vote this time around was apparently close. A record of more than 630,000 petitions were delivered to the board requesting a stay of the execution. (Read the complete New York Times article).

The facts aren’t really clear to most of us: but it is undeniable that there is a reasonable difference of understanding. While this “reasonable doubt” is not the kind that necessarily should have freed Davis, is certainly should have halted an action that can never be undone or corrected.

Reverend J. Edwin Bacon, Rector of All Saints Church, Pasadena writes:

We know that the death penalty is applied unevenly. It is disproportionately pursued and administered against African-Americans. People of color and people of low income are more likely to be executed than others in the United States. This immoral, racist, and classist practice has been abolished in most civilized countries. To our shame the United States’ use of the death penalty places us in the company of nations known for human rights violations: China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran.

The death penalty dehumanizes all persons in whose society it still remains. The Supreme Court’s upholding this execution implicated us all in the murder of Troy Davis. As Coretta Scott King famously said, “Justice is never advanced in the taking of a human life. Morality is never upheld by a legalized murder.” On this somber night may all people of good will commit themselves ending this evil done on our behalf and to the abolition of the death penalty.


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Rod Gillis

Interesting article about the decline of judicial killings from The Economist.

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