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09/22/2011 09:09 am ET | Updated Nov 22, 2011

Frank Rich To Rachel Maddow On Troy Davis: 'This Is On America's Soul' (VIDEO)

Rachel Maddow and columnist Frank Rich spoke strongly against the death penalty on Maddow's Wednesday show.

Maddow was covering the execution of Troy Davis, who was killed by the state of Georgia on Wednesday night, even as an unprecedented public campaign from every corner of the political world called for the execution to be halted due to the persistent doubts surrounding his guilt. Maddow and Rich spoke before he was executed.

Rich said that, as tragic as he felt the Davis case was, he hoped it would turn attention to the problems with the death penalty. "If anything good is coming out of this drama," he said, "...it's really focused people on a case that really is about the best argument against the death penalty you could muster."

Maddow brought up a letter that former wardens who had carried out executions had written to the Georgia Department of Corrections. In the letter, the wardens said that the doubt surrounding Davis' guilt would haunt the people who carried out his execution, as the doubt around some people they had executed had haunted them. Rich said that the letter was moving and powerful.

"These are people who actually execute the machinery of death," he said. "And this idea...that the people who do this are not going to be hurt by it or marred by it is preposterous, because they're human beings too."

Rich said that the letter could be applied to the country. "This is on America's soul too," he said. "There's something wrong with a society that takes life."

Maddow also pointed out the seeming incongruity with conservative disdain for the machinery of government, except when it comes to killing prisoners. "Is there a libertarian case to make for the government not being able to be trusted with something as heavy as killing American citizens?" she wondered.

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