I’ve been busy the last few weeks, and didn’t know much about the Troy Davis situation. I was directed to this AP article, which provided a pretty good overview of the case of the Georgian scheduled to be executed in a few hours despite some very serious doubts about his guilt. What leapt out at me, though, was this:
Davis was not the only U.S. inmate scheduled to die Wednesday evening. In Texas, white supremacist gang member Lawrence Russell Brewer was headed to the death chamber for the 1998 dragging death of a black man, James Byrd Jr., one of the most notorious hate crime murders in recent U.S. history.
I’m glad to see that Troy Davis’ case has attracted so much attention, and dismayed that a man who is not guilty beyond any doubt is hours away from being executed by the state. But I oppose the death penalty, not because it’s too often misused, which it is, but because I oppose its use in all cases. I have struggled with whether it should be considered in case of state crimes, where a government coldly perpetrates monstrous crimes with intent and forethought; I would, for instance, have a difficult time categorically opposing its use for the leaders of the Rwandan genocide. But other than that one narrow doubt, my opposition to the death penalty is steadfast.
Troy Davis should probably receive a new trial, or at a minimum some authority should conduct a thorough review of his case. It’s possible that his conviction is unjust, and would be even if he were serving a sentence of a set time, rather than being condemned to death.
There seems to be no doubt that Lawrence Brewer is a depraved man who committed a an almost unimaginably horrific act. With two other men, he lured James Byrd in to a truck, beat Byrd until he was unconscious, urinated on him, then chained him to the back of the truck and dragged him, still alive, across pavement for over 2 miles until Byrd’s arm and head were severed from his body. After this gruesome act, Brewer and his accomplices then went to a barbecue.
The main difference between Troy Davis and Lawrence Brewer is that while Davis may have been wrongly convicted, Brewer was rightly found guilty of his crimes and deserves the strongest punishment permissible under the law. But the strongest punishment for a crime should never be execution. State-sponsored execution as a legal punishment is no less unjust when used against the worst people in society whose guilt is unquestioned. So, tonight, while I oppose the state-sponsored execution of the possibly-innocent Troy Davis, with equal vehemence I oppose the state-sponsored execution of the unquestionably guilty white supremacist Lawrence Russell Brewer.