A former prosecutor remembers sleepless nights:

Some might consider that admission a sign of weakness or a lack of resolve, but in retrospect, I see those nights as ones in which I was fully human. The cost of being wrong as a prosecutor is almost unthinkable. This is especially true in a capital case, such as the recent and tumultuous end game in the Troy Davis case in Georgia. Davis’ final appeals to the state of Georgia were denied, despite the fact that seven of the nine witnesses against him had recanted their stories.

The debate that’s quickly and clearly emerging (kicked off by Andrew Cohen’s excellent piece, then underscored by Dahlia Lithwick) in the immediate aftermath of Troy Davis’ execution is between finality and mercy:

On the side of execution without further delay, the virtue upheld is that of “finality of judgment.” That is, once a verdict and judgment are rendered, it should be difficult to upset. Victims’ family members sometimes see a promise in that judgment, and finality renders a certainty to the process that some see as promoting deterrence of crime…

On the other hand, those seeking to delay the execution of Davis for reconsideration of the evidence promoted other virtues: deliberation and mercy. Unlike “finality of judgment,” these virtues are firmly rooted in the Constitution itself and the core values of Americans.

Deliberation is a predominant central virtue promoted by the Constitution…. mercy, is also an explicit part of the Constitution. The federalists insisted on the inclusion of the pardon power, for example, for the express reason that it gives the system some outlet for this core virtue…

The Troy Davis case shows us a truth: We have wandered too far from our own best virtues.

If we are to err, let it be on the side of deliberation and mercy, rather than the unsettling finality we have seen pursued by the state of Georgia. Should we choose those better virtues, we might all sleep better.

If I was wrong in my support of Troy Anthony Davis he’d have eaten his prison breakfast this morning and lived out his days in brutal captivity (I’ve been to Jackson) unless and until he was exonerated. If the confident proponents of his execution were wrong, an innocent man was murdered by the state.

Still, I did not sleep well last night.

The American people, virtually alone in the civilized world in their adamant support of the death penalty, will one day come to embrace the virtues of deliberation and mercy.

On this morning after the execution of Troy Anthony Davis we are left with the question that only history can answer: Is that day today?

JOE WINDISH, Technology Editor
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Copyright 2011 The Moderate Voice
  • ShannonLeee

    Nah, we’ve always been a good 50 years behind the rest of the civilized world.

    Europe looks at us in the same way we look at the Middle East, China, and Russia.

  • Allen

    Naw, justice was served.

    The man was guilty of taking a life and taking his life in return was indeed justified. I weep for the poor innocent suffering in the world not the murderers. I slept good because I know the world is now less one murderer. May God have mercy on his soul in death, because I have no mercy for life.

  • jdledell

    Since the days of Adam and Eve, man has always wanted to play G-d. In our arrogance we bemoan our limitations. In this case, the execution rests on man’s assumption of infallibility – never a wise decision.

    I listened to the prosecutor in this case on CNN yesterday and the arrogance of his certainty came through clearly. He claimed never have police cut corners or intimidated witnesses. Good Grief!!!!

    I will be leaving for Israel in a few days to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I shall include in my prayers of atonement some for the people of our justice system.

  • Allen

    jdledell

    Yeah ok there; “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. You go atone,

    …but it’s not a matter of righteousness, its a matter of self defense.

  • RP

    For many years i beleived that the death penalty was right. The two things happened.

    One, scientific processes emerged that allowed for individuals to finally prove their innocence. This led to further cases being overturned for other reasons through programs that find evidence to overturn convictions. One only need to read the books, articles and information available to find that too many people are incorrectly convicted on bad data.

    Two, how can one believe in the right to life and also believe in the death penalty? Some may be able to find the two co-exist. I could not reconcile the differences. To me, the death of anyone at the hands of another is unacceptible. On this one to me, the sword has two edges. You can not also beleive in the right to choose, but not in the death penalty.

  • jdledell

    Allen – Are you ABSOLUTELY 100% sure Troy Davis was Guilty? Only G-d knows whether Davis is Guilty. You prove my point – you like playing G-d with the ultimate power of Life and Death.

    For goodness sake, there have more than 100 examples of Death Row inmates being unjustly convicted.

  • Allen

    jdledell-

    Yep, no doubt.

    He was guilty long before this media generated “doubt” appeared. I have no idea why the media wants to create crap like this. Slow news cycle I suppose.

    I’m pro-death penalty because I have witnessed violent people killing the innocent. Believe me, I wanted to kill those murderers and danced with glee when they met their maker.

  • jdledell

    I hope when you meet your Maker, you tell G-d that He isn’t needed anymore. You KNOW everything. May I bow down to your Lordship. Have you EVER been wrong about anything? If so, how about a little humility then.

  • jdledell

    Allen – The more I thought about your comment, the more disgusted I became. NO Human Being should ever rejoice over the death of another Human Being, Is your Humanity so shriveled that Hatred has taken over? And the Lord said -Vengence is Mine. Be sure to tell G-d you are ready to take over His duties.

  • JSpencer

    Interesting that two of our commenters (EEllis and Allen) claim to know that Troy Davis was guilty of killing someone and are happy with the execution. Of course there is no way either one could possibly have this knowledge, and to claim to have it is wrong. It’s one thing to have faith in a very flawed criminal justice system, and quite another to have this sort of blind faith in it. Why are people so afraid to say they don’t know? I don’t believe in coddling killers and am not even necessarily against the death penalty in some cases, but given the way it’s handled in this country, we would be better off not to have it at all.

  • dduck

    I’m ambivalent about the death penalty and am an atheist, and think limiting it’s use to revenge, VERY heinous or multiple killings. Examples would be the major in Texas and the shooter in AZ. But I would be willing make even those life sentences, but not say a premeditated killing like the WTC or poisoning hundreds or thousands of innocents.
    What about being pleased about (not gloating) Bin Laden and Hitler’s death? Is that OK?

  • EEllis

    Never claimed I was happy or that I “know” Davis is guilty. I do believe he is guilty, that he recieved a fair trial, and that by the laws of the State he deserved his sentance. I think the “doubt” in this case is manufactured and BS. Those recanted witnesses, why not have them testify? If they mattered so much why not? Because it was smoke and mirrors to feed to the public. There have been cases where I wasn’t sure but Davis sure isn’t one that I would worry about.

  • I’ve generally been a supporter of the death penalty for most of my life, but developments within the last few years (i.e. the Cory Maye case, the West Memphis Three case) have made me question this policy.

    Not because I have sympathy for murderers (I don’t) but because I have the utmost sympathy for all those who have been wrongly convicted of murder and may face the death penalty as a result of it.

    I don’t know whether Troy Davis was guilty or not. The recanted testimonies do not exonerate Mr. Davis; they merely raise questions.

    One thing I do know, however, is that according to the Innocence Project, as of January 2001, 266 people previously convicted of serious crimes in the United States had been exonerated by DNA testing since 1989, and 25% of those cases involved murder.

  • JSpencer

    Thanks Nick for the additional perspective. Given the work of the Innocence Project, one has to wonder just how many people have been falsely convicted and punished. Of course there is no way to have a perfect system, but there is clearly room for improvement. Expanded use of DNA testing would be a step in the right direction.

  • Allen

    jdledell-

    Ask a soldier in combat if he rejoices at the death of his enemy.

    It’s good to have an open mind and an open heart, but you are a victim in the making…and when you see the innocent being attacked, make sure your cell phone is charged up, because that’s all you will do for them. Oh yes, you will also cry out against violence pointing to the dead as an example….of your passive point of view.

    Those whom are guilty of killing the innocent must forfeit their lives in kind.