After 22 years of pleading his innocence, Troy Davis was executed late Wednesday for the murder of Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail, splaying open the debate over lethal injection.
In the weeks before his death, Davis rallied support from thousands of Americans. Protestors gathered across the country, even locally in Amherst, carrying signs that said “I am Troy Davis,” and “too much doubt.”
And doubt appears to be a prominent subject in the discussion. Many of the witnesses that originally testified against Davis have sine retracted their statements, claiming that they are pressured into claims against Davis. Some witnesses have also come forward to say that there was another man at the scene.
Since the eye-witness testimony was integral to Davis’ conviction, and it appears to have fallen apart, anti-death penalty groups (such as Amnesty International) have taken this flagship opportunity to show how people can be put to death with too little evidence.
The family of late officer MacPhail feel that finally, after two decades, they are on their way towards feeling a sense of peace. They have stood by, watching appeal after appeal, waiting for this execution. They do not acknowledge Davis’ claim of innocence; they are sure of his guilt. And so is the prosecution.
Whether Davis was guilty or not, Americans are questioning the death penalty because of this case. To hear a man, doomed to die, maintaing his innocence, makes you think, “this could happen to me; I could be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
I would like to briefly acknowledge the moral dilemma, here. If we are punishing alleged murderers by murdering them in turn, does that not make us hypocritical? Are we not then murderers ourselves?
Some would say say yes, others no. The death penalty has prevailed for centuries in one way or another, as a form of “justice.” The families of murder victims claim that it gives them a sense of peace to know that the person that killed their loved one has reached the same fate and is no longer walking the streets. Others stand by the death penalty for strictly economic reasons, claiming that there is no reason to pay for a murderer to live their life sentences in prison when we can put them to death.
Regardless of the perspective, all these questions have left a bad taste in America’s mouth.