Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis

Troy Davis was executed last night following 20 years in prison. His case had become famous internationally for the doubt that had been cast on the trial and conviction. The basics are that he was convicted in 1991 of killing an off-duty police officer (the killing took place in 1989), there is no DNA evidence tying him to the crime, there were some eyewitnesses at the trial, and many of these eyewitnesses recanted their testimony following the trial. As is true with most anything, you can get a very detailed description at Wikipedia:

Seven of nine eyewitnesses signed affidavits changing or recanting all or part of their testimony. The limited ability to appeal his conviction, due in part to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, brought his plight to international attention. Prosecutors argued that it was too late to present the recantations as evidence. Davis maintained his innocence.

And here's a post about events leading up the execution:

Troy Davis Executed After Supreme Court Rejected Appeals

This is certainly not the first execution that has been called into question (see my July post, Incarceration. The death penalty is certainly not an easy topic to consider. I'm even trying to just think about the basic premise of it (without having to read the long Wiki entry). Any kind of analysis done here, now, would not be enough. But the basic premise that society should be protected from random, preventable violence by government is well taken. And to what extent should society have to pay to keep a proven murderer alive for the rest of their life?

Still, the bit against capital punishment, about how it should be determined who lives and dies (and how things get "proven")... that is also well taken. Especially when you have a Supreme Court Justice say something like this:

I have yet to see a death case among the dozens coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial... People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader

If you take that statement to its logical conclusion — that having good representation means paying good money for it, AKA, the rich have significantly different legal outcomees from the poor — it all leads back to social class and capitalism. And that's not even considering racism. This is just one area (in a huge grey cloud) where the clear-cut basic premise of the death penalty gets very murky.

So: how to trust a society that gives the best healthcare and the best resouces to its rich and executes its poor?

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