So I’ve purposely avoided putting up anything about Troy Davis, even though it’s the biggest news topic today other than fucking Facebook. Purposely avoided it, because even though I’ve read a much as I could about the case online, I still don’t know whether he was guilty or innocent, and I’ve got far too little information to actually make that decision. But this has turned into a larger discussion about the death penalty at large and America’s sometimes overzealous of thereof.
An anon asked the following question, which is what prompted me to write this post rather than have a long-ass question/answer post that takes up most of the front page.
The anon asked:
Do you think all of the attention being paid to the Troy Davis case is because American citizens are truly outraged by the fact that a man was executed when, in the minds of many, there was reasonable doubt as to whether he was guilty? Or do you think that this is merely a social phenomenon? Surely very few will have anything more to say even a week from now. And even fewer will try to do anything to change the system that they feel is so unjust. Oh, what a melancholy Taco Thursday…
Yes, I think this is more about the death penalty and the use of the death penalty more than anything, at least as far as I can tell. There are quite a few that are outraged because they think he was innocent of shooting an off-duty police officer in 1989, but to me, that seems like a lot of bandwagon-jumping.
If you’re not familiar, here’s what happened in a nutshell. In 1989, Troy Davis and a friend were at a Burger King in Savannah, Georgia. They got into an altercation in the parking lot with a homeless man, and either Troy or his friend pistol-whipped the homeless man until an off-duty police officer, who was acting as security at the BK, came out to break it up. More words were exchanged and the officer, Mark MacPhail, was shot and killed. Several eyewitnesses said it was Davis that pulled the trigger, but later those accounts were redacted, but the retractions were never re-submitted. The bullets matched a gun that Davis had used in a previous shooting charge and Davis was convicted.
For the most part, if someone is convicted of killing a cop, that’s a death sentence. Not that a police officer’s life is intrinsically worth more than anyone else, but killing a cop or a judge is seen as not just an attack on another human being, but an attack on the system. So cop-killers generally get the chair.
I think the death penalty does have its use, but I also believe that it is over-used in the US, and if the conviction was accurate, I still don’t think he should have gotten the death penalty. Reserve the death penalty those who have truly forfeited their right to be part of the human race. People like Tim McVeigh, who killed nearly 200 when he thought it would be fun to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. Or Stanley “Tookie” Williams, leader and co-founder of the Crips, who was convicted of personally killing four, but probably killed a lot more, and oversaw the murder of dozens as well as destroying the lives of hundreds through pushing crack in LA. Both of these men forfeited their right to live. Not Troy Davis. Give him life, give him forty, but death? No.