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Murder in Georgia

Troy Davis was murdered by the state of Georgia at 11:08pm ET last night, after a last-ditch request for stay by the Supreme Court was denied. “The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to Justice Thomas and by him referred to the Court is denied,” read the terse order, with no dissents.

In the four hours between a temporary stay and the eventual denial, Davis reportedly remained strapped to the gurney which wheeled him into the death chamber, where he received a lethal injection. From the gurney, Davis proclaimed his innocence for the final time before being put to death.

AJC reporter Rhonda Cook and other media witnesses report that Davis addressed the MacPhail family directly from the gurney and again proclaimed his innocence, asked mercy for those about to kill him and asked his friends and supporters to continue working to get to the truth of officer MacPhail’s death.

Impassioned and in some cases spontaneous protests and pleas for justice for Troy Davis took place outside the murder site and in cities around the world yesterday, to no avail. Davis was convicted of killing an off-duty police officer, Mark MacPhail, outside a Burger King in 1989. Seven of nine witnesses have recanted their testimony fingering Davis as the killer, citing police coercion.

According to the Innocence Project, over 130 inmates murdered by the state have been shown later through various pieces of evidence to be innocent of any crime. How anyone can think that the US criminal justice system is so perfect to never have killed an innocent man is beyond me.

Another state-sponsored execution took place yesterday in Texas, of one of the white supremacists who dragged African-American James Byrd behind a truck to his death. I suppose this was seen by some as a kind of cosmic balance for the murder of Troy Davis. But when you consider that Rick Perry had been just looking for someone to line up in from of his abbatoir after the Supreme Court stayed two of his execution candidates in the last five days, and when you consider that James Byrd’s own father wanted mercy in the case of Lawrence Brewer, you begin to see another alternative.

“You can’t fight murder with murder,” Ross Byrd, 32, told Reuters late Tuesday, the night before Wednesday’s scheduled execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer for one of the most notorious hate crimes in modern times.

“Life in prison would have been fine. I know he can’t hurt my daddy anymore. I wish the state would take in mind that this isn’t what we want.”

They didn’t. In the case of Troy Davis they didn’t take the wishes of millions in mind, along with the evidence of the case.

There could be a very large opportunity on this issue. California may have a ballot initiative next November to abolish the death penalty, which is inordinately costly for the state. They would join 16 states which have abolished the death penalty. Signatures are being gathered for this measure, after the legislature tried and failed to get it on the ballot. It won’t bring back Troy Davis, but maybe it will stop others like him in the nation’s largest state from being killed.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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