Nobody Innocent Has Ever Been Executed, Because We Only Execute the Guilty

I’m squishy on the death penalty.  I absolutely think there are people who have revoked their membership card in the human race, and who deserve death as a punishment.  Morally, I have no problem with a hypothetical death penalty where only the guilty are so punished, where it’s used only on the worst of the worst, and where it’s administered evenhandedly and humanely.

Of course, that has little to do with the American system of capital punishment, one which gives you several demerits for being poor or non-white, or especially for being a poor non-white who killed someone white.  It penalizes you for living in Florida and not Minnesota, penalizes you for living in Texas and not Florida.  People still are electrocuted to death.  Oh, and the criminal justice system can be at times a Kafkaesque hell that denies the innocent the right of appeal.

Troy Davis is on death row in Georgia, convicted of killing a police officer.  He’s due to die in the next forty-eight hours.  Seven of the nine witnesses at his trial have recanted their testimony.  And yet thanks to federal law, he can’t appeal his sentence; statutorily he cannot introduce new evidence that may exonerate him.

I don’t know whether Troy Davis is guilty or innocent, and frankly, that shouldn’t be for me to decide, or you.  But he shouldn’t be put to death with this much potentially exculpatory evidence swirling around.  Contact the Georgia Parole Board, and let them know that we’re watching them.  And remember that anyone who says we haven’t executed an innocent person is almost certainly lying.

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18 Comments

Filed under 10_jeff_fecke

18 responses to “Nobody Innocent Has Ever Been Executed, Because We Only Execute the Guilty

  1. Of course, that has little to do with the American system of capital punishment

    Wow, hey, what do you know2? Someone else that sees the death penalty the same as I do.

    I also have no moral qualms with the death penality in theory, as I personally feel that society does have that right. However, in reality the death penalty doesn’t operate like it should in theory.

    Because I am yet to see a death penalty outside of law & order where there was absolutely no doubt about the guilt of the perpetrator, and it’s apparent in what you are talking about Jeff that this has definitely not occurred.

  2. We have executed innocent people in Texas.

    Like you, I can imagine an ideal situation where I might be able to support executing someone. But the system we actually have is so biased, so broken, that I cannot in good conscience support it.

  3. Linnaeus

    Even if I had no moral qualms about the death penalty – and I do have some – I don’t think any death penalty regime conceived by human beings could sufficiently ensure that the standards you’ve indicated would be met in each case.

  4. The death penalty really ought to be reserved for the worst of the worst – people with no chance of rehabilitation, serial killers, mass murderers, terrorists, and the like. Even without the evidence of innocence, I’m not sure this man would qualify based on the charges. With the evidence of guilt disintegrating, this case has become a mockery. Georgia is going to kill someone solely because the procedure demands it?

  5. Just as galling…in the meantime the guilty party remains free.

    If someone kills my loved one — or me — I don’t want a scapegoat convicted. I want the murderer convicted.

    I too see the system as flawed. And we can’t undo an execution.

  6. Brian

    I don’t believe that society does have a right to kill people. If it does, then the legality or illegality of murder is conditional and up for debate. It’s wrong for one man to kill someone, yet since we gang up on him it’s alright?

    Second, to me, the death penalty doesn’t do anything for me as far as justice. I would rather see a murderer in prison, being punished for the rest of his natural life span rather than get the easy way out. Being an atheist, I think we all end up in the same place, which is nowhere, so killing someone (and sending them to Hell, which may or may not be the Christian point of view of capital punishment) is useless as far as serving justice.

    Third, I object to the death penalty because it is never used to actually serve justice, but as a means of power projection and social control. We accept the death penalty now because it’s punishment for murder, but change the things we allow the death penalty to be applied to and people’s opinions would change.

  7. I think there are some who just need to die, but I do not like our system either. McVeigh deserved to die to me. Not as much for the main act, but because he knew children were there and aimed the truck at them anyway. It is one thing to be a coward and mass murderer, another to just not care about life

  8. galnoir

    This has been said already, but…thank you for summing up exactly how I feel about the death penalty in general.

  9. Brian

    I disagree, and I live in Oklahoma. As I already said, him dying did nothing for any of the survivors other than a superficial feeling of revenge. It did nothing for me whatsoever. I wanted him to actually suffer for what he did, which the death penalty doesn’t provide for.

  10. ginmar

    Is it true that one of the two non-recanting witnesses is the other suspect?

  11. Even if some people deserved to die, who ought to be entitled to kill them, and how does this affect the executioner and society?

  12. Anonymous

    I’m against the death penalty because I’m mean and cruel. Death is too good for murderers. Let them suffer for the rest of their lives. Make sure the medical services are really good to keep them alive and incarcerated for a long, unhappy life, preferably in an “outsourced” prison. Any person who was innocent when imprisoned could eventually be free, if they live long enough for us to reform this inane system.

  13. Alix

    See, I’m backward. I don’t see death as a punishment – I see it as a safety valve.

    I am religious, and I do believe in an afterlife of sorts, but it’s too complicated to get into here. Suffice it to say I don’t believe in the standard Christian no-second-chances afterlife. I simply don’t see death as evil, or cruel, or a punishment.

    Ideally, I’d like a prison system that rehabilitates everyone it can, and isolates and helps everyone that cannot be rehabilitated. But the thing is, I can’t trust anyone to keep murderers and rapists in jail. I do think our process needs to be more refined, but I think that it absolutely should be applied in cases where letting the convicted person free – ever – would result in more harm to others.

    The only way a person should be released is if it turns out that he was wrongfully convicted and didn’t commit the crime, or if it can be guaranteed – well, reasonably so – that he is no longer a danger.

    The person in this case absolutely should be retried. This is a mockery of justice.

  14. keshmeshi

    It’s illegal in our society for regular citizens to kidnap and imprison others. Yet, our government feels free to do both to convicted criminals, even when those convicts have committed neither of those specific crimes. Which brings me to my major problem with the argument that state executions are the same thing as murder and, when the state executes someone, it might as well go ahead and make murder legal. The government reserves the right to set laws and enact punishments for violation of those laws. That’s significantly different than the decision of a private citizen to snuff out another person’s existence for no other reason than he or she: was in the way, pissed the murderer off, was in the wrong place at the wrong time, looked like an easy victim to torture/rape/murder.

    It’s very similar to the eye for an eye trope. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind…when we’re talking about the Hatfields and McCoys or vendetta in medieval Italy. When we’re talking about government penalties for breaking the law, no it doesn’t. In an eye for an eye world, we would have to imprison lawmakers, district attorneys, judges, and juries for throwing convicted criminals in prison.

    As an atheist, I am very happy to see the worst of the worst executed for their crimes (when we’re talking about a nonexistent, fairly applied death penalty). This life is it. Therefore, murderers have committed the worst possible crime — taking what little time their victims had left. No other penalty other than ending the murderer’s existence can suffice.

    I can guarantee that the worst of the worst are not guaranteed a hard time in prison. Men who raped and murdered children? Absolutely, look at what happened to Jeffrey Dahmer. Your average sociopath? Not necessarily, who do you think makes prison life hell for other inmates?

  15. boatboy_srq

    Unlike (probably) many posters here, I’ve seen the inside of prison. OK, OK it was a field trip for a Criminal Justice class, but it was thorough – and it left an impression. We visited Concord State Penitentiary in New Hampshire: a “good” prison. I think all of us left scared s#*^less.

    The death penalty, in my opinion, is wrong for two reasons. One: extreme sanction is irreversible. You can’t unexecute an innocent man. Illinois figured that one out not so long ago. Second, prison from my perspective is far more fearsome than death: execution would in my opinion be release rather than sanction, and I’m not entirely pleased with the folks who committed mass murder getting an out.

    On the other hand, if someone were to assign the Air Force One call sign to a shuttle so Shrub could learn first hand about the new (experimental) ejector seat installed in the craft, I’m not sure I’d be particularly displeased…

  16. K. Bandell

    In reference to Troy Antony Davis, please contact
    Governor Sonny Perdue at
    404-656-1776
    and urge thf ollowing:
    – that the pending execution of Troy Anthony Davis be stayed
    – that clemency be granted
    -that the sentence of Troy Anthony Davis be commuted to a humane alternative.

    For those interested in placing a message on their answering machines, a prototype recorded at (562)864-8957 can be used.
    In peace.

  17. Pingback: Good News at Shakesville

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