Two lives were taken by the government in the southern United States last night.
One, in Georgia, received a great deal of media attention, and has invoked those opposed to capital punishment to speak out in force and in great numbers. This was in part due to the serious doubts raised about Troy Davis’s guilt.
The other, in Texas, hasn’t been talked about quite so much.
There are reasons why the former may have more effectively brought out the humanist sentiment in many people. For one, Lawrence Brewer (the man executed in Texas) was a white man involved in an appalling racial assault; Troy Davis was black. Whatever influence this may have had on their respective juries, it’s likely to have worked in Davis’s favour since then in inspiring a campaign of support, and made it easier for him to be seen as a tragic victim.
Further, Brewer’s involvement in the attack isn’t really in any serious doubt, even by his own account; Davis always protested his innocence, there was never any physical evidence linking him to the crime, and many witnesses have recanted their testimony against him. While this didn’t help Davis one iota at any point during the workings of the justice system, it’s easier and far more comfortable for protestors to rally around the guy who probably didn’t even do it.
But of the people protesting Davis’s killing, many are citing his case as an example of the system failing, and why the fallibility of human judgment means the death penalty should never be enforced. Although this one particular injustice has attracted their focus, they’re acting as campaigners against capital punishment itself, across the board. At least, I think most of them are. If there’s been a large contingent declaring:
Troy Davis’s execution is wrong! The state should only take the lives of criminals it’s really sure are guilty, and this particular case just isn’t up to scratch!
…then it’s passed me by. Most people protesting this death say they don’t want to see any government ever taking the lives of its citizens.
Which means, perhaps inconveniently for some, that a racist murderer’s life is just as important to fight for as an innocent black man’s.
On Twitter this morning, Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning said, of Lawrence Brewer, “I find it hard to oppose this particular execution”.
For the record: I don’t.