Friday, January 29, 2010

Troy Davis and American Justice

Recently, I was invited to join a group voicing disapproval that Larry Platt (that guy from American Idol with the “Pants on the Ground” song) supports Troy Davis. If you haven’t heard of Troy Davis yet, his story is a very important one. Over 20 years ago, Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail was killed in a Burger King parking lot in Atlanta. The investigation lead to Troy Davis, whom 9 witnesses identified as the killer. A jury sentenced him to death, despite having no physical evidence. Since the verdict, 7 of those 9 witnesses have recanted their testimony and even said police pressured them into blaming Davis. He has faced execution four times:
July 17, 2007. It was stayed by GA Board of Pardons and Paroles less than 24 hours before scheduled execution.

September 23, 2008. It was stayed by Supreme Court 90 minutes before scheduled execution.

September 29, 2008 was an unpublicized date. Prison officials were hopeful that Supreme Court would deny Troy's petition before the warrant expired at midnight. At 3:00 p.m. (just a few hours before prison's intended execution) the Supreme Court announced that there would be no decision until October, making it impossible for the prison to go forward with the execution. Family and friends were allowed to visit as planned.

October 27, 2008. It was stayed three days before by 11th Circuit on October 24th.

In August of last year, the US Supreme Court ordered Georgia to hear his new evidence. Read more about the history of the court process, click here.

This starts conversations about two things- “justice”, and in particular, capital punishment, and racism. I’ll begin with the latter.

The reason I bring this up is because I went to the facebook group’s page and the comments left there were saddening. I have never understood racism. Is there anything stupider to hate someone for than what they look like? Especially when it’s their skin color, something that one has absolutely no control over? I never assume anyone is racist, or even that race factors into a situation until I have reason to think otherwise. The witnesses in the case who have recanted their testimony have spoken of being coerced by investigators into saying Troy Davis did it. These are people who have nothing to gain from doing this but a clean conscience.

It’s one thing to talk about a “cop killer” but when someone shows hatred towards another, assuming they are from “the hood” and calling names, then it shows how ignorant they are.

The most pressing question Troy Davis raises however is, is our court system perfect enough to execute someone because they have found them guilty? This is why Troy Davis still waits. He has been waiting for 20 years for a new trial. Troy Davis himself isn’t the only tragedy, but the justice system in America is a tragedy. If anything, it proves we have no authority to kill anyone.

It seems the only reasoning behind having a death penalty at all is to give “closure” to the family and serve “justice”. Neither of these is accomplished by killing someone. For one, it seems a judge is pressured to execute the person especially if the family recommends that. Since when is that how punishment is decided? The family is hurt and grieving, they are told (and believe) that if this person (who seems to be the sole cause of their pain) is taken from this life, then they would feel better, that they would somehow get “justice”. If I were you, I would read this article, which is about the execution of the DC sniper. Some admit to having little closure from it, while others hint at wanting revenge. This is not what the justice system is for.

As soon as someone is blamed for something, anything from a small rumor to murder, we ostracize them and will always see them as something less than human. We don’t care whether they are actually innocent, because we need someone to blame, and they were the first to fit that description.

I wonder if people who support the death penalty, especially family members of victims, are Christian, because to me, it would be impossible to reconcile wanting “justice” and “closure” with the need for forgiveness. One can’t say, “I just need to see him die, because he killed my husband” while believing that they should love and forgive everyone. While there are so many secular reasons to abolish the death penalty, I think the fact that Americans cling to it show how un-Christian this country is. Maybe we should stop claiming that we are.

I am in no way condoning or supporting the crimes these people commit. However, if we feel we can completely ignore our respect for people, and thus do whatever we want to them, whether they are guilty or not, then where does that leave us? It leaves us as a disgrace to our nature. It leaves us with no justice at all. It leaves us with no peace, because tomorrow, you could be the one who’s “guilty”. If we can’t follow our own laws, it leaves us with chaos and shortly after, destruction. God is the sole decider of life, from beginning to end. We are not God.

To learn more about Troy Davis and his case, click here.

To sign a petition, click here.

To read more about wrongful executions, click here.

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