Troy Davis was executed in Georgia at 11:08 pm last night.
I am not opposed to the death penalty. In fact, I strongly believe in the death penalty, when properly applied. And I can’t help but think that in the case of Troy Davis, it was not.
Davis was executed for shooting a police office. He’s maintained his innocence since the beginning. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t take a protest of innocence as proof that someone didn’t do something. I mean, let’s be honest here, anyone in prison is probably going to tell you he or she is innocent – criminals are not exactly known for their honesty, or their willingness to do the time for what they’ve done.
But Davis offered to take a polygraph test. There is no DNA evidence to link him to the crime he was put to death for and 7 of 9 witnesses have recanted or changed their testimony. Put all of that together, and it sounds to me like some very good reasons to not put a man to death until something has been done to determine if maybe, just maybe, he’s telling the truth.
Maybe Troy Davis was guilty. Maybe he really did shoot that police officer and deserved the death penalty. But I have serious doubts about that.
It scares me to think of what might lie ahead for us, if we’ve now resorted to killing someone for a crime when there is serious doubt that he or she even committed that crime. It really seems to me that the justice system is not performing it’s job (namely, justice) if we can’t take a step back and look at a man who has proclaimed his innocence consistently for twenty years, has offered to take a polygraph test to prove he didn’t commit a crime for which there is no DNA evidence, and for which nearly all the witnesses have backed off from their original stories, and think that PERHAPS we should take another look at the case before we put him to death.
Death can’t be undone. While no one would have been able to give Troy Davis back the twenty years he spent in prison awaiting his execution, at least if he were still alive and they found him innocent, his name would have been cleared and he would have been freed.
But we can’t bring him back to life. If we find out now that he was as innocent as he always claimed, there might be apologies to his family and yes, they’ll clear his name; maybe they’ll even give his family some money. But none of that will bring him back.
His last words were, “I am innocent.”
It terrifies me to think that they will discover he was telling the truth – now, after that they’ve killed him. It’s too late to make things right. I can’t help but wonder how many others might be in the same boat – innocent, with reason to doubt their guilt, but with no one willing to listen.