Whether Guilty Or Not, The Case of Troy Davies Shows Everything That Is Wrong With The Death Penalty
Last week a man was executed in the state of Georgia, whose guilt was in serious doubt. The case of Troy Davies has led to a lot of controversy all over the world over capital punishment, racism and the American justice system. For anyone who doesn’t know, in 1989 an off-duty police officer, Mark Macphail was shot and killed whilst attempting to intervene when a man was being assaulted. Troy Davies was charged with the murder and sentanced to death in 1991. He spent 20 years on death row, making numerous appeals before he was finally executed in September 2011.
A number of problems with the conviction have cropped up during the last 20 years which have caused considerible doubt over whether Davies was the right man. All but two of the original non-police witnesses have changed or gone back on their original statements, and of the two who did not, one has been silent since and the other has actually been accused of the killing himself. In fact there are some witnesses who have implicated this man rather than Davies as the killer. Many of the original witnesses claim to have been harassed by police into testifying against Davies, as can be seen here (Courtesy of Amnesty international). There have also been questions as to the reliability of the ballistics results.
Beyond eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence, a lot of people have felt that Davis was executed because he was a black man. The attitude of the police towards intimidating the witnesses certainly seems to suggest that they wanted a scapegoat for the murder and a convenient arrest. The idea of a cop-killer walking free would very much have affected their judgement in my opinion. Many people have been comparing the case to that of Casey Anthony, who was acquitted despite the evidence pointing very much in the direction that she had murdered her own child. From looking at this case I personally am of the opinion that she was guilty, so it is disgusting that she is walking free, when someone found guilty on the same amount of evidence has been killed. Of course even in her case I would not support the death penalty.
At the end of the day there is significant evidence that Troy Davis was not guilty of this crime. He may have been found guilty by a jury, but juries are human. They are not infallible. Giving a small group of people the power to decide whether someone lives or dies is horrific. There is always a chance that somebody sentenced to death is innocent. When there is this much doubt, to go ahead with the execution is truly a crime against humanity. The death penalty is inhumane and barbaric even when guilt is certain. But what is it going to take to stop it? America remains the only western country who still uses it as a method of punishment, though of course not all states do. The only way it will ever be stopped I believe is if innocent people are executed and later the truth comes out. Then maybe the true horror of state-sanctioned murder will be realised even by those who support it. The case of Troy Davis has shocked people beyond America, on Twitter #riptroydavies was trending all over the world, from Germany to Australia. It is amazing that this one case has affected so many people around the world.