Last night’s execution of Troy Davis, very likely innocent of murdering a police officer, disturbed on many levels, starting with the horror of an innocent man being put to death by the state, despite the many, many problems with the case:
Since [Davis’ conviction 20 years ago] seven out of the nine key witnesses who implicated him have recanted their evidence, several saying they were cajoled by police into giving false eye-witness statements.
Another 10 have come forward to point the finger at a separate man present at the scene of the murder, Sylvester Coles.
Meanwhile, no forensic or DNA evidence linking Davis to the shooting has ever been found, and nor has the murder weapon.
The other suspect, Coles, also testified against Davis.
Watching live coverage on Democracy Now! last night outside the prison where Davis was later executed added some alienating spin on the ball. The protesters and press were forced to stay in penned in areas, separated by a rope line, so when the on air reporter interviewed someone they had to have the rope between them because … they might reproduce or something. The one time the reporter stepped into the forbidden territory where the demonstrators had gathered in prayer, police quickly told her to get back in her pen. This was followed by countless police cars parading past with emergency lights on in a kind of show of force. It was all very authoritarian.
Then I clicked over to Huffington Post …
As you know, the execution was only shortly delayed, not stayed. But farther down the page there’s this story:
That man, Lawrence Russell Brewer, was executed in Huntsville, Texas yesterday evening as well. Brewer was convicted for the infamous murder of James Byrd Jr., a black man from East Texas. Brewer, as you may recall, chained Byrd to the back of a pick-up and “pulled (Byrd) whip-like to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.”
I don’t know how a man who did something like that can be anything other than a terrible man. I still don’t think he should’ve been executed. Here I’m going to take my lead from the family of James C. Anderson, a black man in Mississippi who was recently murdered by racist thugs.
Ta-Nehisi Coates (see the link above) highlighted yesterday how Anderson’s family has responded to the tragedy they now have to live endure:
The sister of James C. Anderson is asking the district attorney to not seek the death penalty in her brother’s killing — an alleged hate crime.
“Those responsible for James’ death not only ended the life of a talented and wonderful man,” Barbara Anderson Young wrote in her letter. “They also have caused our family unspeakable pain and grief. But our loss will not be lessened by the state taking the life of another.”
She quoted Coretta Scott King in explaining her opposition to capital punishment: “An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life.”
It’s no surprise that the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer didn’t elicit the same coverage and concern as the execution of Troy Davis. Davis was a much better man.
But I have to wonder about that mugshot that Associated Press included in the story HuffPo ran. Notice his red eyes? It’s pretty easy to fix that–Photoshop has a tool for it. Does AP have a policy against doing so? They certainly would for a celebrity, right? Or is it a policy related to mugshots? Maybe so. If it is, I don’t get it.
I’m in no position to forgive Lawrence Russell Brewer for his despicable crime. I feel awful for James Byrd Jr.’s family (I’m sure it’s no better for Brewer’s family)–I vividly remember when the crime occurred. My father, sister and nephew all live in East Texas. I’m white and my wife black and daughter both. Let’s say it “hit close to home.” But I will not live in fear and I will not dehumanize those I least respect: