Troy Davis And the Criminal Injustice System

When protecting the systems in a society becomes more important than the people the systems are designed to protect, that society is in great peril.

Troy Davis languished on Georgia’s Death Row for four additional hours until the stay of execution he hoped and prayed for was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. At 11:08 pm EST Troy Davis was executed for the murder of Officer Mark MacPhail even though recent evidence indicated that he may not have been the killer.

Members of the Georgia Supreme Court, a Butts County Superior Court judge, the Georgia Pardons Board, prosecutors and others were more concerned with conviction rates and reputations than justice. They wanted “justice” at any cost but many in this country and around the world demonstrated because the price that was paid was too high.

Officer MacPhail’s family wants, needs, and deserves justice. The execution of Troy Davis when so much exculpatory evidence has come to light will only provide a short period of satisfaction. At some point in time, the reality that another innocent life has been taken –the first being Officer MacPhail’s– coupled with the reality that the actual murderer is alive, well, and walking the streets of Butts County, GA will begin to weigh heavy on all of their hearts.

The question is very simple, once a person has been convicted and sentenced to death, if evidence is presented that destroys the prosecutions case, should that individual be executed? No.

Look at it this way; since seven of the nine prosecution’s witnesses have recanted their eye-witness testimony the prosecution would not be able to get the conviction if the case were retried today. If the prosecution could not win this case today; why did Troy Davis lose his life?

This calls into question the validity of “eye-witness” testimony, police investigatory practices, and many of the assumptions that Americans have used to based their faith in the judicial process. The ugly reality that this case forces many Americans to grapple with is, if the Troy Davis case has fallen apart; how many other cases are called into question and how many innocent people have been executed?

This should be a clarion call to all those citizens of conscience in Georgia. All of those elected officials who touched this case and elected to weigh in on the wrong side of history should be defeated in their next elections.

Nationally, this should beg the questions, what type of nation are we? What do we really stand for? Do we execute human beings just because we can, even when more than reasonable doubt has now been presented? Carrying out a questionable and tainted death sentence actually damages the “system” that these officials claim to hold so neat and dear.

In the last Republican Presidential debate Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said he sleeps well every night even though he has signed the death warrants of 234 death row inmates. He stated, “I’ve never struggled with that at all…The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which — when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that’s required.”

The problem with Gov. Perry’s sense of security is that since 1994, 44 innocent people have been exonerated and released from Texas prisons based upon DNA evidence that was not available or admitted at trial. Those who have been executed don’t get a retrial, do over, or exoneration.

This is the real class warfare. In America, the poor and the ignorant got to jail while as the late Gil Scott-Heron said “the rich go to San Clemente.”