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Friday, September 23, 2011

State Sanctioned Murder Is Always Wrong

Sept 23rd, 2011
by F. Grey Parker
Please join Amnesty International and commit to ending state sponsored murder

Troy Davis image via
There has been some vulgar pushback following the state sanctioned murder of Troy Davis in Georgia. Those of us who have been steadfast in our opposition to the practice of capital punishment for years have been accused of only recently taking an interest. It has been suggested, with ominous undertones, that we "didn't care" about the other victim in the Davis case, the late Mark MacPhail. Our motives have been made suspect. This is not only dishonorable, it is vile.

What's more, we have been called "hypocrites for "ignoring" the execution in Texas of the notorious Lawrence Russell Brewer that same evening.

L.R. Brewer image via
We weren't ignoring it. We were also fighting against Brewer's execution on general principle. However, having a provably reasonable doubt in the Davis case made it a greater imperative not only for us, but for millions of educated and informed citizens of the world. Let's face it. The cause of Brewer was not a popular one. The public's reluctance to sign our petitions on his behalf isn't exactly hard to fathom.

S.D. Crowe image via
Others have spent time today lamenting the decision of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the death sentence of Samuel David Crowe yesterday evening. This is wrong. 

Is it shocking that his sentence was not carried out and that he will now spend life in prison, rewarded for simply having said he is "sorry" for his crime?

Yes, it is.

Is it suspicious that this commutation came just a day after after Davis' execution?

Absolutely. 

The apparent hypocrisy begs a serious inquiry into the workings of the Georgia system.

That said, we who fought for Troy Davis should celebrate the Crowe decision. We should also condemn the killing of Brewer. That this penalty is allowed at all is the problem.

There is no deterrent value. It is revenge. Some receive it while others don't at the whim of judges and juries.

Allen Ault, the former warden of the Jackson, Georgia prison in which the Davis sentence was carried out, was one of six former penal officials who called for clemency in the Davis case. Mr Ault, a man who has overseen executions in that very death chamber, had this to say to MSNBC in the hours following Davis' death:

"When you're in the death chamber ordering an execution, and even if in your mind, if you're a man of conscience, actually believe somebody is guilty, it's still a very premeditated murder. I mean, it's scripted and rehearsed. It's about as premeditated as any killing that you can do."

It's murder. You can dress it up, you can engage in hyperbole about the "worst of the worst," you can argue about and distort "tradition" and you can generally find a good number of Americans who are willing to do as many rhetorical back flips as they need to in order to call it something else. It's still murder.

Lawrence O'Donnell did a fine job of pointing out why commitment to the end of all capital sentences is a moral duty. You might not be aware that there was a third execution yesterday. The cameras weren't there. They had already folded up shop. We didn't get very many supporters for Derrick O'Neill Mason. There was no question of his guilt and his crime was monstrous. And yet, some of us were fighting for him. Yes, even him. Here's why...

In O'Donnell's words, "as long as we have Derrick O'Neill Masons and Lawrence Russel Brewers we are going to have Troy Davises." Period.

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