The outrage over Troy Davis, vs the outrage over the Death Penalty

As I said over at X Blog, Canada has executed a “mere” 710 people in its history. We lost our taste for the death penalty in 1976, 14 years after our last killing in 1962.

Wednesday night, the US Supreme Court heard and denied an appeal for stay of execution of Troy Davis, a man convicted of killing a police officer, despite substantial evidence that he was innocent of the crime:

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations has conceded that the ballistics evidence used against Davis was unreliable, and one of the Jurors who sat on the case said that if she had known about that she would not have voted to give Davis the death penalty. Seven of the nine witnesses who identified him as the shooter have recanted their testimony. One of the two witnesses who maintain that Davis was the shooter is thought by many to be the real perpetrator and has made admissions to others that he committed the crime. The other remaining eyewitness had been up for twenty-four hours straight at the time he observed the shooting and reported on the night of the crime that he “wouldn’t recognize [the shooter] again.” Yet two years later, this witness identified Troy Davis in an in-court identification that required him to simply identify the only African-American sitting at the defense table.

And yet all the outrage in the world would not stay the State’s hand in killing this man, because the Criminal Justice System is supposed to work this way.

How does one prevent future injustice of this magnitude? For one thing, stop killing criminals as a matter of course. There were other executions on September 22nd, 2011. These executions were carried out against criminals who almost definitely committed the crimes of which they were accused. None of these executions raised the hue and cry from the populace of the United States, nor of the rest of the world… well, with a few exceptions.

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I’d like to hear from the Libertarians like Daniel Maldonado, the ones who think that those of us that believe the government actually has some role in this world actually think the government can do no wrong. I’d like to hear whether they oppose or support the death penalty in general, knowing as I know that government is made up of fallible humans, and that government is therefore capable of making mistakes. And some of these mistakes, where lives are contingent on them, should be either made with the best evidence available, or not made at all.

Where government providing a path to health care for all is socialism (or “rationing” or “death panels”), why is government directly deciding who lives and who dies acceptable?

The outrage over Troy Davis, vs the outrage over the Death Penalty
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16 thoughts on “The outrage over Troy Davis, vs the outrage over the Death Penalty

  1. 3

    By that token, Daniel also agrees with me that the government is spending too damn much money on the War on Some Drugs, and giving too much money to oil subsidies and artificially lowering the price of corn so farmers have to practically give it away to HFCS manufacturers or create terribly inefficient biodiesel.

    If he doesn’t show up, I’m going to feel guilty over feeling like I’m taking cheap shots at him without him visiting and defending himself. :p

  2. 5

    It’s not that Coulter would never lie, but I think it is unreasonable to think that she would invent details that were readily available to be contradicted.

    Either the State called 34 witnesses or they didn’t.

    Either Davis himself did not allow two witnesses who could have helped him had their new testimony been accurate enough to stand up to cross-examination.

    Either a good number of witnesses who were aquaintences of Davis and knew him, or there weren’t.

    I think the “doubt” that has been touted is a little more than contrived.

  3. 6

    I do find it odd that people who complain about the size and reach of our government, and that government control of so many things is bad because the government always messes things up are the very same people who will argue that Troy Davis was rightfully executed by that same government.

    It’s also interesting to see the list of nations that join us in executing prisoners. Oddly enough, they’re the same countries that the social conservatives would call part of the “axis of evil” or decry as guilty of human rights violations.

    It’s barbaric, pathetic, and inexcusable.

  4. 7

    George W:

    I’d be more convinced of your expertise on the subject of Ann Coulter, no matter how sarcastically expressed, if you knew how to spell her first name.

    But to get to the substance of your post, your argument is mere ad hominim, i.e., it is worthless. The truth or falsity claim that Davis is guilty is is completely independent of Coulter’s degree of honesty. So many snary internet commenters, such as yourself, seem not to have learned that in school.

    But since arguments of this type obviously impress you, does it affect you opinion to learn that a respected liberal pundit, Whashinton Post columnist Charles Lane, has also looked into the case and reached the same conclusion as Coulter did? Take a look.

  5. 8

    I suppose ad hominem is nearly as bad as an appeal to authority, right Jim?

    That there was somewhat credible doubt at all should provide enough impetus (along with those others who have been proven innocent) to end the barbaric practice of execution by the state.

    I support anyone’s efforts to discredit the oxygen-wasting, disgusting piece of filth that is Ann Coulter.

  6. 9

    I suppose you also missed my point, Jim, as it certainly wasn’t as sharp as the one atop your head.

    My opinion of that worthless piece of garbage isn’t intended to be relevant to the topic. Her opinion of the situation is relevant to countless low-brow ultra-conservatives, however. Their constant appeal to authority and argument from ignorance is what drives further hatred and bigotry.

  7. 10

    Dan J:

    My point, which you missed, is that an appeal from (or “to” as some say) authority is as worthless as ad hominin (I won’t argue over spelling). They are two sides of the same counterfeit coin.

    Next time, I’ll aim a little lower so that my remarks do not go over your head.

    BTW, your implication that your opinion of Ann Coulter is relevant to the topic only serves to help make my point.

  8. 11

    I don’t believe in the death penalty. It is a medieval barbaric solution. When I look at the other countries still executing criminals, I am ashamed of my country. And it costs far more to fight a death penalty case to its end than to just send them to prison for life.

  9. 12

    @7: Just read it, and it’s an awful piece. Charles Lane didn’t “Look into it”, he simply pointed out that the justice system found him guilty, and hand waves away the idea that there might be bias on the part of the judges on the appeal.

  10. 13


    Coulter is relevant to the death penalty discussion because of the influence she wields over low-brow conservatives? Well, I guess you’re entitled to your opinion on that. There’s no arguing with opinions; only with facts.

    I assume it’s just an opinion, right? You haven’t taken a scientific survey of low-brow conservatives, have you? Otherwise, your opinion of Coulter’s influence contributes about as much to the discussion as your opinion of the shape of my head.


    I brought up Lane’s piece in response to George W.’s ludicrous implication that Coulter’s belief in Davis’ his guilt is evidence of his innocence. The fact of Davis’ innocence or guilt is, as I tried to say at no. 7, independent of the opinions of Coulter and Lane. If you disagree with Lane, I invite you to do your own research, if you haven’t already. It’s available on the net.

    I looked into it myself, and I conclude he’s guilt was established to the point where execution was a just option. I have no argument with the idea that the death penalty – if it is to be imposed at all – should not be imposed on mere absence of reasonable doubt, as with non-capital crimes, but on an even more stringent standard. But if Davis doesn’t meet such a standard, then virtually no one would. You know what? I guess that’s Mr Thibault’s point: don’t execute anyone, because ontological certitude of guilt is impossible. Sorry, I can’t buy it. If that were the case, then Lawrence Brewer, who dragged James Byrd to his death just because Byrd was black, would not have gotten what he deserved, either. I don’t celebrate the death of Davis or Brewer, but I don’t mourn them.

  11. 14

    You’re right, arguments from authority mean precious little. I don’t care who’s out there in the media claiming that the judges are unimpeachable in their judgment that Troy Davis was totes guilty. I care that he was killed at all when there’s a good deal of evidence that calls their judgment into question. I care that the first case was not declared a mistrial and a new trial built. And I care that Troy Davis can never be proven guilty or innocent definitively now, nor would it matter if he was exonerated because he’s DEAD NOW.

    And yet Jim, Sam Crow was spared execution despite being guilty of the murder of which he was accused, because he behaved well in jail and only murdered the guy because he was experiencing cocaine withdrawl. Oh, also, probably, because he was white.

    The death penalty needs to be abolished for no other reason than because it is state-sanctioned murder at great moral and financial cost. It is a tool that inconsistent human beings should not be allowed to wield, especially since it does not perform the task for which it was ostensibly created — deterrence.

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