Proponents of the death penalty often cite the time on Death Row as a safeguard against killing the wrong person, claiming that the protracted wait between sentence and execution provides ample time to challenge the original verdict.
The judicial murder of Troy Davis gives the lie to that idea. I am staunchly opposed to the death penalty, but even many people who are in favour regarded Davis’ conviction as profoundly unsafe.
Davis recently requested a polygraph (lie detector) test. Given that he was on death row, and his execution was getting ever closer, he would have been under a great deal of stress and the odds were stacked against him, yet he was presumably so confident of his innocence that he was willing to take the test. The powers-that-be refused his request, however, which suggests to me that they weren’t at all confident of his guilt, but were determined, nevertheless, to make someone pay for the original murder,of police officer Mark MacPhail, whether they did it or not.
On Wednesday 20th September, the State killing machine finally got its way, but it is to be hoped, not least by Troy Davis himself, that this case doesn’t end there. In his own words, just before he was killed:
I’d like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.