While there are many valid arguments against the death penalty, there is one that is the most compelling: the possibility of executing an innocent individual. Troy Davis was executed despite the fact that his conviction did not meet the legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The legal system failed Davis in the most grievous way, taking his life and giving him no further recourse.
Davis was convicted primarily due to eyewitness testimony. Yet seven out of nine witnesses recanted, including six who cited police pressure to incriminate the defendant. One of the remaining two witnesses, Sylvester Coles, may be the killer. There is no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime and the ballistics evidence was unreliable, as conceded by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations. Three jurors subsequently expressed doubt about Davis’s guilt. Does all of this add up to “beyond a reasonable doubt”?
It is this zeal to execute, as evidenced by the Republican audience cheering Rick Perry’s capital punishment record at a presidential candidates' debate, that sealed Davis’s fate. If Davis were imprisoned, at least his family and supporters could have continued to press his case. At the debate, Perry stated that he didn’t struggle with the innocence of any of the executed-despite widespread doubts about the conviction of one executed Texan, Cameron Todd Willingham. Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois repealed the death penalty due to the wrongful conviction of 20 people. The Death Penalty Information Center counts 138 people who were freed after being wrongfully convicted. Due to this possibility, The Innocence Project is dedicated to exonerating such individuals.
Despite serious doubts about his guilt, the state of Georgia strapped Troy Davis to a gurney and injected him with poisons. There is one way to insure that this does not happen again: joining the rest of the civilized world and abolishing the death penalty.