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by Bill Press
Shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, Troy Davis was killed by agents of the state of Georgia.
He deserved to die, said the state, because he shot and killed Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail in a
The only problem is: It now looks like he didn't do it. No murder weapon was ever recovered, so Davis' conviction was based on eyewitness accounts. Yet, in recent months, seven out of nine original witnesses -- several of whom claimed police coercion -- voluntarily came forward to recant their testimony. And three members of the jury that sent him to death row back in 1989 now say that, based on new evidence, they made a mistake.
Surely, in this great country, with a system of justice based on the principle that guilt must be established "beyond a reasonable doubt," even for sending a man to prison for a month, no state would execute someone about whose guilt so many serious doubts had been raised. Yet that's exactly what happened.
Even though support for the death penalty has slowly declined over the years, it still earned the support of 64 percent of Americans in 2010, according to Gallup's annual
Now here's what I find interesting, and totally contradictory. Have you noticed? Those conservative tea partiers who support the death penalty so strongly are the very same anti-government forces who claim that government can't do anything right. Isn't that strange? They don't trust the government on schools, immigration, health care, taxes, regulation, environment, or anything else. Yet they are 100 percent confident the government never makes a mistake when it comes to the death penalty. The only thing the government does right, in their warped worldview, is: kill!
Of course, they are dead wrong. And not just in the case of Troy Davis. Take the
In March, Illinois became the fourth state in the last two years -- following New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico -- to ban the death penalty. Republican Governor George Ryan had banned capital punishment in 2000 after
And yes, even in Texas, mistakes have been made. In 2004, for example, Perry refused to stay the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who had been sentenced to death for arson, even though experts later testified that the evidence used to convict him was junk science. Based on its worldwide research,
Bottom line: If you can't trust the government to do anything else right, it's totally naive and monumentally stupid to think it always gets the death penalty right. And any death penalty mistakes are irreversible.
Ironically, the state motto of Georgia is "Wisdom, Justice, Moderation" -- three virtues sadly lacking in the case of Troy Davis.
The Only Thing Government Can Do Right: Kill | Politics
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