Yesterday, with hours to spare, the Mississippi Supreme Court stayed the execution of Willie Manning by a vote of 8-1. The stay was granted based on letters from the Department of Justice casting doubt on the scientific value of testimony from FBI experts at the trial almost 20 years ago.
The lone dissenter, Justice Mike Randolph, outlined his interest in putting someone to death immediately over the objections of the Department of Justice and its FBI experts. The decision reads like satire, making the case for the stay stronger than any majority opinion could. Oh, and then there’s some conspiracy rantings about the Obama Administration because, you know, Mississippi…
We live in a country where some states have the death penalty. Capital punishment. The “ultimate justice,” people like Rick Perry say with a smirk, as if justice that ends in death is somehow preferable to justice that respects the dignity of human life.
Do you not know what those sanitized words mean? Do you not know what the death penalty is?
We live in a country that sanctions murder of supposed criminals. That’s what we’re talking about: murder. It’s not “self-defense.” Death row inmates are locked down, strapped down, and would be in jail for the rest of their natural lives but for our societal decision to kill them first.
And the people we kill, we suppose they are criminals. We have a system that spits out a verdict that a person is guilty. It’s a flawed, imperfect system. In any given case, witnesses, counsel, judges, or the jury could be wrong, stupid, or both. We, as a society, take their word for it because it’s the best way for dispensing justice that we’ve come up with so far.
But since we have this flawed system, and we do kill people, then it is inevitable that occasionally we’re going to murder the “wrong” person. To support the death penalty is to support the occasional murder of innocent people. That’s been true since the first barbarian hunter-gatherer thought it’d be a good idea to gather the whole tribe together to watch the death of another defenseless person who claimed innocence.
So my question is, why the hell are people so worked up over Troy Davis?
* Interesting historical perspective from Professor Dave Hoffman on the current debate over legal education. One critic wrote that “there are too many lawyers in this country,” “many of them are not busy,” and “many of them are on the margin of starvation” — back in 1932. [Concurring Opinions]
In a New York Times op-ed, mentioned previously in Morning Docket, Professor Zachary Shemtob and I argue that executions should be made public. More specifically, we argue that executions should be broadcast live or recorded for future release, on the web or on television.
Public execution has some unsavory connotations, perhaps dating back to the days when hangings took place before rowdy crowds in the public square. But when you stop and think about it, the idea really isn’t all that crazy….
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