If it is wrong to execute the innocent, isn’t it also wrong to kill the transparently guilty

I must admit, I have no view on whether Troy Anthony Davis was actually guilty or innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted, because I’ve not taken the time to read deeply enough into the case to come to a settled view. He certainly was of one mind and one voice from the moment he was sentenced to the moment the State of Georgia took his life late last night, Irish time, that he was innocent.

I was still at school in 1977 when the Gregg v Georgia judgement made the death penalty constitutionally compliant, and Gary Gilmore was executed in the Utah State prison in Draper. Since then a long line of men, and handful of women (all them in the southern states) have been killed by the states.

I was struck by Alex Massie’s purely moral view of the question:

Troy Davis’s execution does not actually really rest on whether he is innocent or not. Nor is it actually the point that there are grounds for wondering if his conviction is entirely safe. We should not execute wrongly-convicted people is a necessary but not sufficient case against the death penalty. Guilt need not matter to the anti-execution party; it must or should matter to the pro-execution party.

In other words, to mount an effective case against the death penality, you must also insist that the lives of those who seem more transparently guilty to the public eye be spared must also be spared.

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