NOTE: This Blog was written on September 21 while Troy Davis was being excecuted.
“The death penalty is a poor person’s issue. Always remember that: after all the rhetoric that goes on in the legislative assemblies, in the end, when the deck is cast out, it is the poor who are selected to die in this country.” — Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J.
Last week I found myself watching a portion of the Republican debate. I know what you are asking yourself, “Why would Kevin be watching the Republic debates?” The truth lies in the fact that I am a bit of a nerd, especially when it comes to politics. While the last place I would find myself is in the fold of the Republican Party or anywhere near sympathetic to their politics and policies, I find watching these debates entertaining. As a Canadian I do find American politics fascinating. Watching the debate, however, became too much to handle and I was no longer entertained or fascinated but disgusted. The moderator was Brain Williams. He posed a question to Governor Rick Perry about the death penalty and the fact that he had put more people to death than any other governor in the history of the United States. Before the governor had opportunity to answer, the mostly Republican crowd applauded loudly at his prowess in state sanctioned killing. There was applause because the good ‘Christian’ Governor has put an express lane through Texas for state sponsored killing. Applause from what is surely a group of conservative Christians. I could watch no more of this display of eye for an eye mentality and I went back to the ball game.
What is so surprising is the company that the USA finds itself in. While most of the developed world has abolished or suspended the death penalty, the US is in lock step with China, the Congo and Iran in being among the world’s most prolific executioners (Amnesty International)
Today we have all read about Troy Davis. Having had his execution scheduled now four times he is to be put to death tonight. That was delayed earlier tonight but the latest information is that he will be executed in the next few minutes (Now 10:55 pm).
Davis’ story is a sad one for sure. Convicted of murdering a Policeman in 1989, Davis was convicted with no physical evidence. There is no gun, no fingerprints, no DNA. On top of that many of the witnesses who testified at his trial have since recanted their testimony and many said they were coerced by police. There stands the very real possibility that this man did not murder Officer MacPhail. Despite the potential that the state could have this wrong, the judicial system of Georgia is ready to put a man to death. That is alarming. What is more alarming is that applause I heard a week or so ago at the Republican convention. How can humanity celebrate violence, even if it is state sanctioned – check that, especially when it is state sanctioned? Desmond Tutu remarked, “I don’t want a moratorium on the death penalty. I want the abolition of it. I can’t understand why a country that’s so committed to human rights doesn’t find the death penalty an obscenity.” I agree with him. The United States has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. when examined by state, the facts do not support the notion that death penalty is a deterrent to murder. While Texas puts more people to death than any other, it has one of the highest homicide rates in the country. While Texas has increased the rate at which they execute, there has been no noticeable decrease in the state homicide rate. Louisiana has a death penalty but has a homicide rate higher than Uganda and approaching that of Nicaragua. It is simply not a deterrent.
In many states in the union that have a death penalty there has been an increase in the homicide rate. Could it be that this celebration of violence that we hear in applauding political hordes actually begets more violence? Dr Martin Luther King Jr. insisted that “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. … In fact, violence merely increases hate. … Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” Tonight I fear that the people of the great state of Georgia, Dr King’s state of birth, have added a deeper darkness to a night so devoid of stars. As a people of God it is incumbent upon us to speak against violence and against killing. The killing of Troy Davis will not bring back Officer MacPhail and it will not bring justice. It will not deter another murder, and it will not bring peace. (11:08 – Troy Davis is dead) Gandhi said it best, “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.” We must speak! Pastor Martin Niemoller, a Protestant minister imprisoned during Germany’s Third Reich reminded us of this “In Germany they first came for the Communists; I did not speak because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews; I did not speak because I was not a Jew. Then they came to fetch the workers, members of trade unions; I was not a trade unionist. Afterward, they came for the Catholics; I did not say anything because I was a Protestant. Eventually they came for me, and there was no one left to speak. We must speak!