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Allison Kilkenny Headshot

Our Civilized Murders

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Two hours before Troy Davis was scheduled to die, the U.S. Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution.

Davis is an African-American man, who was convicted of the 1989 killing of a white police officer, Mark Allen McPhail. However, since his conviction, seven of the nine witnesses to the crime have recanted their testimonies, and now claim they were intimidated into making their initial statements against Davis.

There is no physical evidence tying Davis to the scene. There is no murder weapon. Three witnesses now claim they overheard another man confessing to the crime.

The whole case stinks of fraud, deception, and racism. Martina Correia, Davis's sister, claimed in an interview that the Georgia parole board is the only entity, non-judicial, that's able to act in secrecy. There are no transcripts. There are no recordings. There is no media presence.

So, people in the world were not able to hear the witnesses come forward one by one and talk about how they were fifteen and sixteen years old, and guns were put in front of them in interrogation rooms, and they were told that, you know, not only that Troy killed the police officer or they had something to do with it, and, you know, how the prosecutor would tell people that if you change your story, I will charge you with perjury. And it's amazing that the parole board can sit and listen to that over and over, witness after witness, and still ignore it.

Correia believes the Davis case is being handled by the state of Georgia under a shroud of secrecy because the state has already experienced a string of embarrassing death row exonerations.

If they expose it, then you would have another exoneration yet from the same county. In that county, there's been two out of the five death row exonerations for the state under the same prosecutor (Spencer Lawton,) who's run unopposed for almost thirty years.

Diverse voices such as President Jimmy Carter, Congress member John Lewis, and the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu have all called for a Davis retrial. Many advocates have condemned the Georgia death penalty system, where the average odds of receiving a death sentence among all indicted cases were 4.3 times higher in cases with white victims, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

This is yet another opportunity for the U.S. court system and the American people to reexamine the archaic system of institutionalized murder.

In the last 35 years, 129 innocent people have been released from death row. Five of the exonerees are from Georgia.

Sometimes cases are tainted by police misconduct. Other times, important evidence is withheld from the court. Eye-witness testimony, which has sent many prisoners to the death chamber, has proven itself to be prodigiously unreliable. More than 75 percent of the 205 people exonerated by post-conviction DNA evidence in the United States were imprisoned because of mistaken eyewitness identification.

The U.S. Supreme Court's justices are scheduled to meet Monday. It is then that they will decide whether to hear Davis' appeal and they will become witness to the incredible racism and corruption that has been a trademark of the U.S. law system.

In the lone dissenting opinion, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote: "If recantation testimony, either alone or supported by other evidence, shows convincingly that prior trial testimony was false, it simply defies all logic and morality to hold that it must be disregarded categorically."

But the entire death penalty system inherently "defies logic and morality."

The death penalty was originally created to preserve a system of rewards and punishments. Good behavior guaranteed individuals their freedom, while bad behavior garnered the severest of punishments -- death.

Except, this "perfect system" harbors corrupting variables: tainted or lack of evidence and human error and prejudice. The risks are too great to claim that the death penalty is a necessary crime deterrent. If just one innocent prisoner is executed, then the entire "cleansing system" comes crumbling down.

Countries where the death penalty is still legal include Iran, North Korea, and Iraq, the very same countries over which the U.S. claims moral superiority.

The U.S. cannot masquerade as a shining beacon of civility when we execute our own citizens, some of whom are later exonerated of any wrong-doing.