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Abolish the death penalty

September 22, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
The death penalty is an abomination and a stain upon this country.

Last night Georgia executed a man named Troy Davis who was convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in 1989. Davis has maintained his innocence for 20 years and seven of the original witnesses in the case recanted.

Davis was black; the man he was convicted of killing was white and in this country black convicts are likely to be treated far more harshly than white convicts and are more likely to be sentenced to death for similar crimes.

Even worse, Davis lay strapped down to a gurney for three hours while the Supreme Court decided whether it would stay the execution. All of the Supreme Court justices declined to hear the case and Davis was injected with the lethal cocktail. Protesters shrieked outside. Davis told the victim's family he was innocent and his last words to his executioners were "May God have mercy on your souls."

I have no idea if Davis was innocent or not. I find the death penalty abhorrent regardless and resent that my government presumes to kill anyone in my name. But the possibility that Davis might have been innocent and the likelihood that his race played a role in his ending up on death row makes this an even greater tragedy.

In recent years stories have appeared about men and women released from prison after decades when new evidence came to light proving they were innocent. The justice system is flawed and there are likely more innocents sitting in prison cells and, God help us, on death row than we like to ponder. Life in prison should be a sufficient sentence for murder and it leaves open some possibility that the state can attempt to right a wrong in those cases where an innocent man or woman has been convicted.

The state of Georgia and the United States Supreme Court are responsible today for a great injustice. It is time to abolish the death penalty in all 50 states and end the possibility that we will kill an innocent man.


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