|Off With Their Heads! (By AForestFrolic)|
Of course many would argue that the U.S. doesn’t come close to Ali Abdullah Saleh or Bashar al-Assad or Kim Jong-il, but compared to the rest of the wealthy industrialized nations of the north, no other country holds a candle to the U.S.
We are the only wealthy northern democracy that has and uses the death penalty and we just used it to execute a man who was probably innocent. Troy Davis was executed last night in Georgia, even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime and despite the fact that 7 of the 9 non-police witnesses have since retracted their testimony. Furthermore, one of the remaining two stalwarts was a suspect in the crime and would have had very good reason to lie on the stand.
The fact that a man was executed on such flimsy evidence and despite so many lingering questions about his guilt should make everyone skeptical about the true nature of the American justice system. It certainly is not a system in which everyone is innocent unless proven guilty, nor is it impartial, nor does it treat all Americans equally. Death rows are overwhelmingly populated by poor people while people of color are disproportionately arrested, convicted and imprisoned.
Of course this doesn’t explain why Troy Davis was executed even when there was more than reasonable doubt about his guilt.
In Davis’ case, there was an urgent need for him to be put to death because he was accused of committing the absolute most heinous crime imaginable in America: killing a cop.
When a cop is killed, someone must pay and doesn’t even matter who. The only thing that really matters is that someone must die. Of course it is ideal if that person is a poor person of color. It’s a lot easier to railroad an ordinary black man who lacks the wealth and connections to hire Johnny Cochran or some other high profile attorney.
One might argue that Davis’ execution was really just an extension of Jim Crow, as it took place in Georgia. However, Davis was granted a 1-7 day reprieve last night, hours before his execution time. The reprieve was for the United States Supreme Court to weigh in on his case. One would think that if the highest court in the land had any interest in justice, fairness or humanity, it would have granted a stay of execution and insisted on a retrial, particularly in light of the flimsy evidence used to convict him. Yet the Supreme Court not only said “off with his head,” but they did so within minutes, even though they had a week to weigh the evidence and circumstances of the case.
The federal government also has an interest in seeing cop killers executed, or at least creating the perception that a cop killer has been killed.
Cops are the shock troops of capital. It is their job to protect private property, particularly the private property of the wealthy, their factories, shops and estates. They are called upon to suppress civil unrest, student demonstrations, workers’ strikes. Imagine what would happen if a cop was killed in such circumstances and the perpetrators only earned a few years in prison? Imagine if thieves, pimps and gangsters got the notion that they could shoot their way out of bust while only risking a dime in the penitentiary?
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
In the process of trying a capital case and then carrying out the execution, the state gets to create a bogeyman, a vile enemy of the people, and then demonstrate its compassion and defense of the public by wiping this villain off the face of the planet. The public, for its part, gets to participate vicariously, insisting on revenge for a crime that was not even perpetrated against them. Yet a crime against a cop is virtually a crime against the people, since the cop’s job is to protect the people, or so they mistakenly believe. Killing a cop becomes tantamount to killing the only parent of a small child or a mother deer.
Executions are also a sign of virility and strength. In third world dictatorships, they are used to terrorize the populace and keep them in line. In America, they are used to win elections by proving that one is tougher on crime than his opponent. Bill Clinton had a mentally retarded man executed prior to his election to demonstrate his manhood. Rick Perry delighted his followers last week when he proudly declared he felt no remorse or doubts about any of the record 234 men executed under his governorship. In fact, they lustfully applauded his record.