At 11:08 PM on Wednesday, the State of Georgia executed Troy Davis for the killing of an off-duty officer despite serious questions about his guilt. Numerous witnesses have recanted their testimony. The prosecution was never based on anything more than the testimony of witnesses. We now know that those witnesses were exposed to incredible pressure by the local police.
I do not know all of the facts of Troy Davis’s case. But I do know this. No trial is perfect, no courtroom is beyond reproach. Those of us who make up the system, prosecutors, judges, and defense lawyers, do the best we can to ensure that at the end of the day justice is served. But I think if you took any of us aside we would tell you, the right side does not always win. Sometimes the guilty walk; other times the innocent are convicted. A trial, like life, is unpredictable and messy.
Once we acknowledge our own fallibility the monstrousness of the death penalty becomes clear. It is bad enough that the wrongly convicted serve a day in jail. But at least in jail they enjoy the life of the mind. As the saying goes: “You can break my body, but you can’t break my soul.” The death penalty does not just punish, it obliterates.