From last night, two very different perspectives on a singular issue.
I didn’t stay up long enough to see the news happen for one. Troy Davis, who had a massive amount of public supporters saying he was innocent, was executed in Georgia for the murder of a police officer in 1989. In terms of cases, this is one of those “rough ones.” There were a large number of witness recantations. The case has been made into a textbook study of how cops can go around - unwittingly or not - prejudicing witnesses and tainting eyewitness testimony in identification of suspects. There was a strong reason to believe that one of the witnesses who fingered Davis could have been the real killer. In short, a gigantic mess. The problem for Davis, however, was that most of these changes had come 17 years after his original conviction, and by the time most of this came out, the vast majority of his appeals were already over with. A US district reevaluation of his case, which resulted in a 150-page decision by Judge William Moore, applied an incredibly high standard requiring that Davis’s lawyers not simply prove a likelihood that he would not be convicted today, but “actual innocence.”
For Death Penalty opponents, the Troy Davis case, along with a few others, serve as the points where “the system probably got it wrong” to argue to abolish.
On the same night, the State of Texas executed Lawrence Russell Brewer. Brewer, by all accounts, was as close as we usually get to a human “animal.” Nasty racial supremacist, supremely arrogant about his crime, and never repentant. Going over the details of it aren’t really worthwhile, but it’s been called “the most brutal hate crime of the post-Civil Rights era.”
So… on the one hand, someone who almost nobody could deny is guilty and probably deserved it. On the other, someone about who there are - at least for a lot of people, myself included - some serious doubts.
Argument to abolish, or just an argument to reform the system somehow?