On September 21, the State of Georgia plans to execute Troy Davis.
Now, I know it is no surprise to anyone reading this blog that I am deeply and 100% opposed to the death penalty. This is a position (like being a pacifist and a vegetarian) that I came to via my Christian values, and it has been reinforced over my many years researching and writing about the history of lynching in this country.
I understand that there are many many people in this country whose personal beliefs and experiences have not led them to be opposed to executions. I get it. Proponents of the death penalty argue that it is only just that people who have robbed others of their lives should not have the privilege of continuing to live. In particular, I feel for the families and loved ones of those who have been the victims of a violent crime. I understand wanting retribution. I understand feeling like the death penalty is the only fair answer. I’m not writing this post to argue against the death penalty in general. I’m writing this post to ask what we, as a society, gain from executing people when there is even the slightest question of whether or not they actually committed the crime?
Aside from religious beliefs, the greatest argument against the death penalty is that our imperfect justice system has allowed too many innocent people to be executed. This is why, ultimately, we have abolished the death penalty in Illinois – the deaths of 13 people later found to be innocent of the crimes for which they were executed proved to be too great a burden for the state to bear. Though I was overjoyed by the decision, I understand that many were outraged. So it seems to me that people who believe that the death penalty is a just punishment should have the most invested in making sure that innocent people aren’t executed. When there is significant reason to doubt a sentence, I would think that PROPONENTS, not OPPONENTS, of the death penalty would have the most to gain by challenging the execution.
This why I am asking all of my friends, whether you are for or against the death penalty, to take ten minutes to read about the case of Troy Davis. And if (as I have) you find that the information about his case casts significant doubt on his guilt, I ask that you please take a few minutes to call the Georgia State Parole Board and ask that he not be executed: (404) 656-5651. I also ask that you send an email to the Georgia District Attorney. And finally I ask that you spread the word.
The time is now. Over your lunch break. Coffee break. Commute. Whenever you have a few minutes. Wednesday may be too late.