Troy Davis: a likely innocent man murdered, but his killer walks free

By Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop

25 September 2011

TroyAccording to a balance of probabilities, the killer of Mark MacPhail, the off duty policeman murdered in 1989, remains at large and unpunished. As does the killer of Troy Davis.

Why did Troy Davis, MacPhail’s alleged killer, get a death sentence, while the killer of Troy Davis got a government pay check for a job well done. A pay check for dispensing reciprocal justice, of the kind meted out in a Mad Max movie: The crass embodiment of the US penal system.

The answer of course is a combination of bureaucracy, politics and pandering to a blood thirsty and baying crowd. A crowd for whom ‘not knowing’ is intolerable compared to making a potentially innocent man a murderer, because the latter allows us to make sense of the world with far less effort.

Since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row in the USA due to evidence of innocence.

Amnesty International UK comments “Troy Davis’ case is a perfect example of how deeply dubious the application of the death penalty can be. A high-profile crime, a shaky case that has fallen apart over the years, a rigid justice system that hasn’t fully reviewed all the new evidence and is pressing ahead regardless.”

The same no-grey-allowed was applied to the war in Iraq to convince the American public of Saddam Hussein’s links with Al Qaeda, since proven to have no basis in fact. To justify yet another form of state sanctioned killing, this time of troops and civilians. You’re either with us or against us, Bush famously said. No grey allowed.

The Troy Davis execution on 21 September, has bought the death penalty to the fore in a way that no other anti-capital punishment campaign has done.

Amnesty International released its global death penalty report in March. Can anyone remember the statistics? That there were executions in 23 countries. Or that over 2,000 new death sentences were imposed during 2010 in 67 countries.

But who now will forget the cruel 20 year build up to the death of someone who could have been innocent. A build up which was in and of itself a breach of international law and the right not to be tortured or subject to any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

There was simply “too much doubt”. As a society and as individuals we have to learn to live with doubt. To muster the courage for self-reflection and change which accompanies that. To learn that convicted criminals are not always guilty. And to learn that justice dispensed by one of the world’s leading democracies is not always just.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. Or in the words of the Bluetones “That man who would save us from the hurt the world brings, neglected to mention who would save us from him.”

Liberty & Humanity

Related article:

Iraq: propaganda’s war on human rights about the illegality of propaganda used by the UK and USA.