Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"We are Troy Davis!"

Today, a great travesty of justice has occurred, as a man, Troy Davis, was executed at 11:08 PM ET.

Many notable persons advocated for Troy, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former congressman Bob Barr, former FBI director William Sessions, actor and singer Harry Belafante, Sister Helen Prejean, and many others.

Troy was very possibly innocent; 7 of the 9 witness against him in his trial have since recanted, citing police coercion. When the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2008 refused to hear an appeal in Troy's case, a dissenting opinion from the Chief Justice stated "if recantation testimony, either alone or supported by other evidence, shows convincingly that prior trial testimony was false, it simply defies all logic and morality to hold that it must be disregarded categorically." Former Republican Congressman and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr wrote that he is "a strong believer in the death penalty as an appropriate and just punishment," but that the proper level of fairness and accuracy required for the ultimate punishment has not been met in Davis's case.

The Georgia NAACP characterized the prospect of executing Davis a "legal lynching." The factor of race cannot be discounted in this case. The repeated rebuffs in Troy Davis case seemed tinged with arrogance on the part of the authorities. The evidence and innocence of the accused be damned, they got their man.

It seems to this observer that politicians are willing to have people executed if they think that makes them look tough on crime, and get votes. Texas governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry is a solid example of this.

America seems a back ward country in some respects; a nation that still practices the death penalty (the victim's innocence often not being a mitigating factor), that does not consider health care a human right, and that is willing to torture, leaves us in a state of arrested moral development compared to most other industrialized nations.

As Bob Dylan once wrote in his song "Hurricane," about another innocent black man accused of murder, this case can't "help but make me feel ashamed/ to live in a land/Where justice is a game."

The chant of those protesting Troy Davis' murder should be on our minds and lips today: "We are Troy Davis!" For as Martin Luther King Jr. once so famously stated, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."


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