Was Troy Davis Innocent?

Ben Cohen
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Oppose the Death Penalty for Troy Davis aka “T...

When it comes to legal cases, I refrain from weighing in with an opinion because in most cases I do not know enough about the case to make a judgment one way or the other. I was almost certain that OJ Simpson killed his wife because I read many documents pertaining to the case and took the time to research it. Other than that, I haven't spent a huge amount of time looking through high profile court cases because generally speaking, the ones that get media attention only involve celebrities or good looking women. They are of no real national importance and mostly serve the media's insatiable desire to drive ratings with trashy gossip stories.

However, the execution of Troy Davis last night does hold political importance because it puts in to question the legality and morality of the death penalty. I have not had time to do enough research to weigh in on an opinion about Davis's guilt. From preliminary reading, there does seem to be ample doubt about his involvement in the killing of a homeless man in 1989. Some key facts stick out. From the Guardian:

Apart from the witness evidence, most of which has since been cast into doubt, there was no forensic evidence gathered that links Davis to the killing.In particular, there is no DNA evidence of any sort.

Of the two of the nine key witnesses who have not changed their story publicly, one has kept silent for the past 20 years and refuses to talk, and the other is Sylvester Coles. Coles was the man who first came forward to police and implicated Davis as the killer. But over the past 20 years evidence has grown that Coles himself may be the gunman and that he was fingering Davis to save his own skin.....

No gun was ever found connected to the murder. Coles later admitted that he owned the same type of .38-calibre gun that had delivered the fatal bullets, but that he had given it away to another man earlier on the night of the shooting.

Again, I am not pretending to be an expert and I haven't done nearly enough research to justify an opinion one way or the other, but it does seem fair to say that there is at the very least, reasonable doubt about the case. And if there is reasonable doubt, there can be absolutely no justification for the use of the death penalty - the ultimate penalty - regardless of whether you believe in the state's right to kill people. Davis never received a retrial and has paid for a crime he may not have committed with his life.

I am undecided when it comes to the death penalty - in certain cases I support it, but I have very serious problems with giving the state the power of life and death over its citizens. Troy Davis's case highlights the serious ethical problems with the death penalty, and its proponents will have a hard time arguing otherwise. For me, it's another powerful argument to abolish it all together.

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