A Question of Justice

The nation of Gabon abolished capital punishment on the 14th day of February, 2011. When will the United States of America be that civilized? Capital punishment is not an effective deterrent and the expensive crusade to execute innocents is far too common.

Wednesday, every woman and man in Georgia stand to be the agents of Troy Davis' death. Most of the witnesses to the death Mr. Davis is accused of causing have recanted. They accuse another among them -- the witness steadfast against Mr. Davis -- of the crime. In short: Mr. Davis' guilt will forever be rightly questioned.

Wednesday -- unless Georgia's Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm petitions the judge to vacate this death warrant and the judge does so -- Mr. Davis' 20-plus years on death row will end. Violently. His real crime? Being Black in Savannah, Georgia. Once, we called that lynching. Legal formalities have been served. Justice has not... a too common failing in capital cases. Look no further than Thomas Cahill's elegant story in A Saint on Death Row to see how we dehumanize ourselves by killing others.

There is no bright side to Troy Davis' expected demise, but there is one glimmer of humanity. Troy Davis has first-hand experience of being the personal concern of millions of people around the world. Whether or not common decency prevails, he has been affirmed during his too-short walk on this planet. Perhaps this time we will learn from our sin.

Mr. Davis, whose chances to live out his natural lifespan are slim indeed, will have given us more than his death. He will have given us his life as a testimony to how cruelly racist bigotry sustains and enables this vindictive punishment. Capital punishment is expensive and it is unjust.

Is the original crime now to be compounded? Have we learned nothing?