Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Troy Davis

After a brief delay by the U.S. Supreme Court, convicted murderer, Troy Davis was killed by the state of Georgia just an hour ago. I woke up after falling asleep knowing about the stay of execution, yet knowing his death was almost a forgone conclusion. He has been awaiting completion of his sentence for 22 years through a vast number of appeals and stays of execution. Members of his family and the family of slain policeman Mark McPhail were present for his death, and a media observer stated that the McPhail family, "seemed to get some satisfaction," from the death of Davis.

I don't doubt they are satisfied that this miserable chapter in their lives and their continuing grief is closed. Open forever will be the wound of losing a beloved man, and despite their vocal pronouncements that they are,"100 percent sure," of Davis' guilt and responsibility in the death of their loved one, they will live with the myriad of questions that government sanctioned murder brings to bear on all of us. For his part, Davis never wavered in his denial of wrongdoing, and in his final moments he offered God's blessing on those prison officials responsible for his impending death by lethal injection.

We are a country of contradiction on the value of human life. My faith and my practice as a member of the Catholic Church have led me to the a very firm conviction that capital punishment is morally and ethically wrong, and fatally flawed and the current Pope was one of many world leaders who denounced the planned murder of Davis and asked for clemency. Most tellingly for me were the denouncements by conservative Georgia politicians, the former director of the FBI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Former President Jimmy Carter. I don't agree with many of the churches stances on social issues, but I do admire the consistency of valuing all human life.

There will be many advocates for the death penalty who will trot out the concept of justice based on "an eye for an eye," but with that notion comes the archaic belief we live in a world that is not colored in shades of gray. Justice in the U.S. is not applied in a just manner, even the most conservative political persons will acknowledge that human error has been responsible for false convictions, and in many cases wrongful deaths in the case of convicted persons being murdered and then being exonerated post mortem by physical evidence. Since 1973, 173 men have been released from death row with the discovery of evidence and the advent of DNA technology.

There is a large body of research performed by all manner of learned individuals, both politically liberal and conservative, that has consistently determined that the death penalty is not a deterrent for violent crime, that it is not applied consistently with regard to victims and their accused offenders race or ethnic background, and that economically it is a money pit of epic proportions. Estimates by news organizations and advocacy groups on both sides of the issues have determined that it costs well over 4 times as much to commit government sanctioned murder, than to house an individual for over 40 years at the maximum level of security.

On a purely emotional level I cannot imagine the heartbreak of losing a loved one to a violent crime, and on that gut level I can well imagine wanting, wishing, and longing for the death of the perpetrator. That is exactly why members of a murdered persons family are not serving on the jury-objectivity is lost, no matter how devoted one is to the cause of truth, human nature overrides the desire for truth and justice on so many every day matters in life, how could we not expect it to be a lost cause in matters of death.

Capital Punishment is a complex, convoluted, and misapplied concept because of the very fact that human beings are in charge of it and if we truly believe that having a society that protects and values life is important then we have to value the lives of the guilty as well as the innocent. Why? Because one day it could be you or I that stand falsely accused and facing death-and no one, executioner, judge or jury member, should bear the emotional cost of government sanctioned murder in the name of justice.

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