Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finding justice for every Troy Davis

Edit: This post was written shortly before finding out that the Supreme Court denied Troy Davis' request for an appeal. Davis was executed at 11:08 p.m. tonight. I urge everyone to keep Troy, his family, and the MacPhail family in their prayers tonight

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." - Matthew 25:26

The execution of Troy Davis, which was scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. tonight, was delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court, sparing his life, even if just by a few hours.

If you don't know the story of Troy Davis, basically what happened is that he was convicted of murdering a policeman using some shaky evidence (no gun, for example), and sentenced to die. Years later, seven of the nine witnesses recanted all or part of their testimony against him, basically making the thought of an innocent man being executed an all-too-real thought.

Is Troy Davis guilty? Aside from the courts, nobody is sure. Is he innocent? Public perception seems to think he is. Should he die?

No. Absolutely not. Even if he was 100 percent guilty, we should not kill this man.

Why? Because all life is sacred. From the unborn child to the convicted rapist, every person has value. Every person is made in the image of God. It's why I strongly oppose abortion in in all cases, including rape. It's why I shudder every time I think of our country dropping an atomic bomb in Japan. It's why I shake my head in disgust at people who claim to be prolife but turn around and support the death penalty (I'm looking at you, Ann Coulter). And it's why I think that life in prison is sufficient punishment for even the most evil murderers in our country.

Are there exceptions? The way our country is run, there aren't any. In section 2267 of The Catechism of The Catholic Church, it states, "Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

Two hundred years ago, when prisons weren't as secure and a murderer had a good chance at escaping and committing more atrocities, then I could see the need for an execution. Nowadays though, if someone is locked up in prison for good, that is almost always sufficient in keeping that person from harming others.

So the Christian faith I subscribe to backs me up on this. That's always nice to have in your back pocket.

Other than the intrinsic wrong that is executing someone, let's look at executions on a logical level. If you believe that human life is sacred, why would you allow a system that can occasionally see an innocent man die? Of all the executions that have taken place in this country, logically you have to know that not every person executed was guilty. And these lives aren't statistics: they're people. If you have a system that can put an innocent person to death, then if you value life, you have no choice but to concede that it is a broken system.

On the flip side, if you sentence an innocent man to life in prison, there's still time to correct the wrong decision and compensate the man financially for the wrong-doing. For an innocent man put to death, all you can do is apologize at his grave.

I think the saddest part about any of these executions, aside from the obvious fact that a person's life is ending, is the "joy" that the victim's family gets out of seeing someone die. No, I'm not in their shoes, but isn't that just a LITTLE sick and twisted, finding comfort and satisfaction in someone else's death? This isn't me judging, but I have to wonder if those people are truly interested in seeing justice done, or if seeing someone die is just their way of exacting mental revenge on someone.

Sadly, I do think it's the latter. And if you wish death on someone, no matter what they've done, well, you're not following that whole "love your enemies" thing that Jesus made famous. If anyone in my family dies at the hands of a murderer, you can hold me to this next statement: I will fight against that person receiving the death penalty, no matter what.

Forgiveness is hard, but that's what Christ would want us to do. Whether it's a Troy Davis, an unborn baby, or a Timothy McVeigh, we should all have a chance at life.

Even if we don't "deserve" it.


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