Thursday, September 22, 2011

We Are Not A Better World

The state of Georgia has killed Troy Anthony Davis.  

Davis was convicted of shooting a Savannah police officer in August, 1989.  The officer, Mark MacPhail, was off-duty serving as a security guard at a Burger King when he tried to break up a fight where a homeless man was being beaten.

Davis had maintained he wasn't responsible for MacPhail's death.  And in recent months, seven of the nine witnesses who helped to put him at the scene of the crime with the .38 pistol recanted their earlier testimony.  Numerous prominent people, from former President Jimmy Carter to the Pope, had spoken out against his conviction and argued for prosecutors to look at the evidence again and let Troy Davis go.

Also in the mix was the MacPhail family, who lost their son to an act of violence when he was trying to protect another.  Understandably devastated, they have been waiting for the man convicted of killing their son, brother, father, husband to pay the price handed down by the court in 1991.  Prosecutors had convinced them Davis was the guilty man.  And they wanted their justice.

This is the world of the death penalty.  Justice through vengeance.  One violent act answered with another violent act.  The only difference being that one happened in a parking lot of Burger King with a pistol and the other was done in a sterile, methodical, slow drip of lethal injection in a prison.  Killing Troy Davis does not restore the life of Mark MacPhail.  But it does add to the body count in the case.

I have witnessed a state execution.  I know its surreal atmosphere.  I have witnessed both the families of murder victims and the families of the accused sitting in a soup of misery and grief.  At the end of the day, we may want to say that an execution means "justice has been served."  But what it really means is we have usurped the power of God to mete out the real justice in favor of our often-flawed version of it.

I hope that Troy, who maintained his innocence even on the gurney, is resting in peace with God.  And I especially pray for the Davis and MacPhail families that they may know the peace of God in a world that doesn't seem that peaceful. 


JCF said...

"I have witnessed a state execution."


I can't even imagine. I'd be throwing myself against the one-way glass... [Or, I hope I would]

Phoebe McFarlin said...

We are going down the wrong path. The death of one man in the midst of a fight is bad enough... but to spend thousands of dollars through many years to make a questionable decision to kill another??? where is our common sense to say nothing of mercy and compassion?

SCG said...

JCF, I had to do a lot of unpleasant things as a public radio reporter. Witnessing the death of John Earl Bush was a key turning point in my spiritual journey. Unfortunately, my seat was on the very back row close to the wall and so I had no means to escape which I would later have to deal with in some trauma release training as a massage therapist.
The death penalty is horrible. Just horrible. (BTW, the glass is two-way... and it is very close to the witnesses).

SCG said...

Phoebe: mercy and compassion seem to have taken a back seat to revenge.