Thursday, September 22, 2011

Execution American-Style

Well, they did it. Georgia executed Troy Davis even though there appeared to be subtantial doubt about his guilt. His trial was based on the testimony of witnesses with no forensic evidence to back them up even though it has been proven that human memory is notoriously unreliable and can be easily manipulated. Seven of the nine witnesses have since recanted.

Davis even offered to take a polygraph but the State said no. God forbid, if it indicated that he was telling the truth - what a monkey wrench that would throw itno the works!

There were other weaknesses and errors of judgment in Davis' case but you can read them all in a million different websites so I won't go into all that.

It is enough to say that the state of Georgia seemed bent on killing a man who may or may not have been guilty. It is almost as if guilt or innocence was beside the point by execution time. They'd had their trial, got their conviction and sentence and, by God, they were going to proceed regardless of any later questions.

I am not opposed to capital punishment. I have always believed that some people are like cancerous tumors on the body of society. In those cases, society has the right to surgically remove them to protect itself from their malignant poison - if, and this is the big if, we are absolutely sure we have the right person. Being kind of sure or fairly sure or sort of sure isn't enough to execute someone. That's what reasonable doubt is all about. Unless we are 100% positive, then the death sentence shouldn't be an option. A humane community errs on the side of caution when it comes to putting its citizens to death or, at least, it should.

Of course, the prosecutor will try to convince the jurors that there is no reasonable doubt. The problem is that most poor and/or minority defendants rarely have access to equal justice. They aren't O. J. and taking their case won't garner their attorneys face-time on television. Their public defenders tend to be young and inexperienced or old and tired. Some of them are cynical. They just want to get the trial over with and collect their fees so they urge a plea agreement that may not be in their client's best interest. Furthermore, they aren't allotted the funds to compete fairly with the State in matters like hiring investigators to search for exculpatory evidence or hiring experts to analyze forensic evidence.

In most cases, the accused aren't paragons of society. They may have grown up in a ghetto with little or no adult supervision, gang members as their role models  and a sub-par education. They may "look like" criminals and sometimes they are.  And on the other side are the police officers who are trained in how to present themselves on the witness stand, people the public consider heroes and authority figures.

The conservative south is the worst, of course. The bloodthirstiness of  the kind of people who cheer when Texas Governor Perry states unequivocably that he's never suffered a moment of indecision or remorse for being the "killingest" governor in the U.S.  is shocking to those of us who might be able to imagine allowing an execution to proceed under certain circumstances but not without some measure of soul-searching and psychic trauma.  By contrast, Perry and his supporters seem to consider taking another man's life as blithely as they would swat a fly.

And these people claim to be religious. They proclaim that life is sacred to the one they call Almighty. Isn't it they who should insist on every possible safeguard with the possibility of calling off an execution should there be any doubt at all that they might be ending an innocent life instead of someone like me who isn't even sure there is a God who cares what we do?

And the families of the murdered confound me. It is almost as if they want a death for a death and it doesn't really much matter if it's the right death. I honestly believe if it was my son or father who'd been killed and questions arose about the supposed perpetrator's guilt, I'd want to call a halt until I could be convinced. Because if we were wrong about Troy Davis, then the real murderer got off scot-free and another victim, just like my loved one, died in his place.