Wednesday's Executions

I doubt it's very often that we execute two people on the same day, indeed, within the space of a few hours. Last night Troy Davis was executed in Georgia. Davis was convicted of killing police officer Mark MacPhail many years ago. Several witnesses in the case retracted their testimony and the case received a great deal of international attention.  In Texas, white supremacist Lawrence Brewer was executed for the brutal 1998 murder of James Byrd. In the former case, given the retracted testimonies, claims of police coercion, and the lack of a murder weapon, reasonable doubts do exist. There's no going back now. The work of The Innocence Project (www.innocenceproject.org) has demonstrated beyond a doubt that the danger of executing innocent people is very real. The case of Brewer is very different, to say the least: after going to prison he joined a white supremacist group, wrote about the thrill of murder, and never showed any remorse. In fact, he seemed to revel in it.  And yet, in spite of the grotesque, hateful nature of Brewer's crime, he should not have been executed. We have a moral imperative to abolish the death penalty. In our system of injustice, it is inevitable that innocent people will be executed. When the state kills innocent people it loses all legitimacy and incarnates in that moment the most horrible kind of despotism.  Having the likes of Lawrence Brewer live out their days in jail is a very small price to pay for restoring some legitimacy to our government. (Above, Manet's "The Execution of Maximilian".)

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