Does that possibility upset you? Scare you? Anger you? It should. And if it doesn’t, then you are lacking a key element of being human, and that is a conscience.
Let’s go over the facts of the Troy Davis case:
As you can see from this time-line, there was significant doubt over Davis’ guilt. I’ll repeat:
- 7 of the 9 witnesses recanted their original statements. Click here to see an article of the witnesses original testimonies followed by their changed testimonies from Wednesday.
- Thousands protested the execution. Even Former FBI Chief William Sessions called for a stay of execution.
Did Georgia execute an innocent man last night? We don’t know. And that is the problem. We can continue to investigate this case (which is what Davis asked for when making his final statement), but the outcome doesn’t truly matter. The damage has already been done and there is no possible way to take it back. Even if we find beyond a reasonable doubt that Davis IS guilty, it doesn’t make what happened last night okay. Because on September 21, 2011 we did NOT KNOW beyond a reasonable doubt that Troy Davis was guilty. Let’s get the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” clear. When a former top FBI official thinks it is too soon to execute a man, when thousands fight on that man’s behalf, when 7 of 9 key witnesses take back what they said, that is NOT proving his guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
This post is not about the death penalty. Yes, if the death penalty were outlawed then there never would be this type of situation. But that is not what I want to address. I’d like to convey how important it is to err on the side of caution when it comes to a human life. To do anything but that is to devalue that human life.
Last night, Troy Davis’ life was devalued. I watched a press conference that was held after the execution in disgust as a few who were present described Davis’ every movement, his final words, how he refused his last meal, how he refused to take a sedative, how he blinked rapidly when the execution was carried out, the precise details in which he was executed, and so much more.
And the entire time I kept thinking, what if he is innocent? What if?
I am not the only one who thought that. Thousands others thought that. Perhaps even the corrections officers who were there may have thought that. Imagine the emotional toll that they will endure.
On MSNBC last night, former Georgia prison warden Allen Ault spoke of the devastation he has dealt with as a result of overseeing executions. Take a listen to what he has to say. His words are gripping. You can hear the despair in his voice.
Many are going to be affected by this premature execution. But the question is how, if at all, it will change things? Will discourse eventually die out, or will we truly re-evaluate our system of justice?
I will conclude with Davis’ final words:
The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth.
I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.”