Troy Davis is gone

September 21, 2011

At another time I’d consider posting this on Daily Kos, but there’s enough of it there already and I can’t add much more to those conversations. This is just a ramble, a rant.

The justice system, our prisons, solitary confinement, capital punishment…they are issues of interest to me. Have been for a long time now. So the case of Troy Davis was naturally one I learned about a while back, and I’ve been watching the slow, horrible miscarriage of justice taking place in Georgia.

There are others who have strong opinions about Davis’ guilt or innocence. He certainly took the claim of innocence to his death this evening. I can’t claim such study and knowledge of the case to hold a strong opinion about the crime, myself. What has been made clear, however, is that after ramming a conviction through the justice system, the system gets twisted around and works against reversing what it’s done. The last attempts to stop this execution in Georgia help to demonstrate this. The standard shifts from “proving” guilt, by whatever shaky means, to proving innocence. It’s harder than it sounds. It seemed no degree of doubt about the conviction was enough for anyone to pause and reconsider. No influential figure could sway the parole board in Georgia.

Credit where it’s due, even the catholic pope was among those speaking out against this execution — the clergy holds to a somewhat consistent pro-life stance, at least, even if many catholics can’t be bothered. Not that I expect many Georgians would care about what the pope says. More likely, they’re protestants.

Tonight I am reminded to question why all this is necessary. Assume the worst, that this fellow in prison is an inveterate psychopath. Imprisoned, he is neutralized. Society is safe; he loses most of his freedoms; justice is served. Right? There is no need to execute anyone. Unless we don’t trust the prisons to hold these people captive — and who believes that? I know in my state, for-profit prisons are sucking money out of the gov’t and they are somewhat less trustworthy, but still…it’s not as if prisoners routinely break out and commit new crimes. Mostly, we let them out and then they do, since we create such a stigma for them, leave them with nothing to do, nowhere to go. Except back into prison. Which inevitably hurts more people in the process.

Am I right in thinking that justice is served without capital punishment? Society seems to teach this as a principle, but in practice, it seems not to be so. The victim’s family in Troy Davis’ case sought the execution and called it “justice.” They claimed often that their thirst was for justice, not blood. They seemed…indistinguishable. I think they wanted the reminders, and that pain, to be over. Whether they really believe the execution was just, I don’t know. I can’t trust the victims to be rational about it. This is what we are supposed to have a justice system for. Impartiality. Doing what’s right, not just whatever the victims want. Our standard of punishment is decreed by juries and judges, not victims and their families. There’s a good reason for that. But in this case, the family’s desires were known, proclaimed loudly, frequently. Evidently they spent hours with the parole board just before their final denial of a stay of execution. I can only imagine what was said.

I’m left thinking that my society doesn’t practice what it preaches. Faced with that, what am I supposed to do? Fight for a sort of justice that most people don’t even believe in, though they may pay it lip service? Or leave society to its degradation, and hope I don’t get caught up in it?

So tonight the Supreme Court issued one last denial, and the Georgia prison saw to Troy Davis’ death, and tomorrow I go back to work, and most likely no one there will even know about this. Maybe a few of my co-workers will even be aware of this. Fewer of those will care. Tonight was bad. Tomorrow will be a bad day, too.

It’s no wonder the media often studiously ignores these cases. No wonder the prisons are hidden from view. No wonder solitary confinement is just an idea to most people. No wonder executions are rarely publicized or recorded. Ignorance is bliss. I try not to be quite so ignorant. Some days, I question the virtue of it.



  1. dude, there is no way in hell our judicial system would admit being wrong so he had to die, period. that’s just how it is.

    • It’s true that the system failed, and probably due in part to the pride of the prosecution, or their fear of other decisions of theirs getting questioned. All we can do is make them pay for it in shame.

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