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Time to Ban the Death Penalty

Anthony Samad: Illinois got it right, recognizing that if even one innocent man was put to death, that was one too many. Georgia got it wrong.
troy davis with mother virginia

Troy Davis and Mother Virginia.

The Execution of Troy Davis: Time to Ban the Death Penalty

This time last week, the world was in shock that the United States of America had put to death Troy Davis, a man convicted of killing a Georgia cop in 1989. Troy Davis maintained his innocence the entire 22 years he was on death row. America maintains a mentality that once convicted - innocence no longer matters. America acts like its criminal justice system is perfect. It goes without saying that it is not, but what should be said, or posed as a question is, when does the system repent for its mistakes? It never does. Or rarely does. But not in Troy Davis’ case. America readily admits the flaws of its criminal justice system, but continues to kill anyway.

Arch conservative Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia stated “The law doesn’t allow for claims of innocence after a conviction.” Innocence is no defense after a conviction has been rendered. So the state of Georgia and the U.S. Supreme Court complicate the mistake by continuing to make mistakes based on flawed law. Two wrongs have never made a right…unless you’re the United States government assessing the death penalty. The U.S. won’t do what it knows is right. The execution of Troy Davis was more than a mistake. It was a national travesty.

The real mistake in the Troy Davis case was not giving him a new trial after seven of the witnesses who testified against him recanted their testimony. The same testimony that convicted Troy Davis. Where is the sense here? What does recant mean? It means they took back what they said. Now, what credible evidence did the state have against Davis when two-thirds of the witnesses that testified against him perjured themselves. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” evaporated, and reasonable doubt replaced it. The state didn’t have a case against Troy Davis. But that was alright…because they had a conviction and that’s all they needed to put him to death. So, they did. Even with too much doubt. Doubt is now the scar on our national conscience. It’s there to stay.

There were a lot of variables in this case that made Troy Davis “an example.” A black man killing a white man in the South, a convicted cop killer (who almost never goes free in any state), a cause célèbre runs out of chances (Troy Davis had three previous stays of execution), a death row inmate runs out of time. But this is a chance to make an example of America’s flaw death penalty system. We know Troy Davis is not the first innocent man put to death…nor will he be the last.

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We can only hope that Georgia and other death penalty states follow the lead of Illinois, which banned the death penalty this year and commuted 15 death row inmates to life sentences without the possibility of parole. Illinois banned the death penalty after a decade of controversial executions that turned up some innocent victims after they had been put to death. More than 130 death row inmates around the nation have been cleared of execution as DNA and other more modern discoveries bring cold cases to life. Illinois got it right, recognizing that if even one innocent man was put to death, that was one too many. Georgia got it wrong. It was more important for them to make an example of bad law than to reconsider good law.

Troy Davis asked that God bless the souls of those corrections personnel who were about to kill him, and that God save their souls after they kill him. In the aftermath of the execution, the media played this off as it was some kind of sporting event. And it was on to the next thing -- an ugly, sad commentary on American society.

Troy Davis was as close to a televised execution as we’ve seen recently. The next step is the camera in the death chamber. I hope America bans the death penalty before we start to kill for “ratings.” Cable television is the modern day Rome Coliseum. We saw how Republican supporters cheered Texas Governor Rick Perry when he acknowledged signing more death warrants than all the states of the nation combined. Have we become that blood thirsty as a society that we will ignore the flaws in the law? Obviously so.

Anthony Samad

There’s only one thing left to kill in American society. Let’s kill the death penalty. God bless the soul of Troy Davis. God save the soul of America.

Antony Samad
Black Commentator