BY NICHOLAS NEAL
On September 21, 2011, Troy Davis was executed after failing to appeal to the Supreme Court for a 22-year death row case that brought the flaws of the death penalty to the nation's consciousness. Seven witnesses had recanted their testimony, thus casting serious doubt upon the case. The fact that he was executed despite this doubt in a Deep South state also brings up the death penalty's controversial record of disproportionate black executions. Finally, this execution in which we are not sure of the culprit's guilt shows how the death penalty opens up the possibility of terrible mistakes that can never be reversed. A guilty Davis in prison would have been more ethical than an innocent Davis executed. Several anti-death penalty, as well as civil rights groups, have rallied around this case. They point to it as an obvious case of the dangers of legalized homicide and demand for the death penalty's abolition. Troy Davis will forever be remembered as a martyr against the irrationality of the death penalty.
Photo by Daniel Lobo; some rights reserved.
On the same day Lawrence Brewer, a white supremacist gang member, was executed for dragging a black man to death in 1998. Supporters of the death penalty often pointed to this as somehow a rebuttal to the argument that the death penalty is an immoral system. However, one of the people who protested the execution was Dick Gregory, a veteran civil rights activist. Gregory has also spoken out against abortion, even endorsing a human life amendment, which leads us to believe that he certainly has sympathies with the consistent life ethic. The fact that an African-American from the civil rights era was willing to protest the execution of a white supremacist is something that could be called Christ-like. It truly is a virtue worth meditating on.
Now in regard to executing guilty people, one of the things we must remind ourselves of is why was it wrong to drag that man to death. The answer is because it was a non-defensive homicide. It was an act of aggression against another human being. Those of us who oppose executing the guilty point to the same principle. I will not argue that the execution of Brewer is as equally immoral as killing an innocent person. I will instead argue that any non-defensive homicide is unnecessary, especially when we have a prison system that can hold the guilty for life, and an unnecessary homicide is an immoral homicide. By rejecting non-defensive homicide, our society becomes more morally separated from the evils of what Brewer did.
For more information on the Troy Davis story, visit http://abcnews.go.com/US/troy-davis-executed-stay-denied-supreme-court/story?id=14571862#.TtVrJbIk67s.
For a report on Dick Gregory's protest of Lawrence Brewer's execution, visit http://www.khou.com/home/Well-known-civil-rights-activist-Dick-Gregory-visits-Jasper-to-protest-execution-130285813.html.