The Strange Symmetry of Two Condemned Men

Does Troy Davis deserve to die?

I’m writing this today about Troy Davis because as things stand as this moment, by this time tomorrow he’s likely to be dead.

He probably shouldn’t be.  The State of Georgia plans to put Davis to death for a murder numerous witnesses now say he did not do.   That’s reasonable doubt.   That’s a reason for justice to be swift and merciful.

But justice and mercy seem to be absent in the state of Georgia.

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s pardons board rejected clemency for Troy Davis on Tuesday, one day before his scheduled execution, despite high-profile support from figures including an ex-president and a former FBI director for the claim that he was wrongly convicted of killing a police officer in 1989.

Davis is scheduled to die Wednesday by injection for killing off-duty Savannah officer Mark MacPhail, who was shot dead while rushing to help a homeless man being attacked. It is the fourth time in four years that Davis’ execution has been scheduled by Georgia officials.

“Justice was finally served for my father,” said Mark MacPhail Jr., who was an infant when his father was gunned down. “The truth was finally heard.”

Kim Davis, the inmate’s sister, declined immediate comment on the decision.

Steve Hayes, spokesman for the Board of Pardons and Paroles, said the panel decided to reject Davis’ request for clemency after hearing hours of testimony Monday from his supporters and prosecutors. The board did not elaborate on the decision and didn’t detail the breakdown of the five-member board’s vote.

The decision appeared to leave Davis with little chance of avoiding the execution date. Defense attorney Jason Ewart has said that the pardons board was likely Davis’ last option, but he didn’t rule out filing another legal appeal.

Davis’ lawyers have long argued Davis was a victim of mistaken identity. But prosecutors say they have no doubt that they charged the right person with the crime.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who plans a noon EDT vigil at the state prison in Jackson on Wednesday, said he’s asking his supporters to urge the pardons board to reconsider. And he is also asking Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm to block the execution.

Over In Texas, where Rick Perry’s Death Machine keeps turning live prisoners into dead ones, they’re really busy this month.   There are four executions scheduled this month with one occurring the same day Troy Davis is to be put to death.  One execution was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court last week.

This one isn’t likely to be.

No remorse from a racist killer.

 Working only sporadically, the hands of the clock atop Texas’ 19th century Huntsville death house are an uncertain indicator of the hour. For the hundreds of killers whose lives end in the red brick building, though, the faulty timepiece’s message still is clear: Time is up.

With four executions scheduled in two weeks, September is the execution chamber’s busiest month since May 2010. And, in each instance, a cadre of death penalty opponents – bullhorn and placards in hand – gathers to decry what it considers the supreme barbaric act.

They will travel to Huntsville Wednesday for the execution of North Texas small-time hoodlum-turned-killer Lawrence Russell Brewer. Coming after the high-profile, initially successful campaign to stay last Thursday’s scheduled execution of Houston double-killer Duane Buck, Brewer’s death may seem anticlimactic.

“If we hadn’t had four cases in nine days, we would have focused more on this case,” said Gloria Rubac, of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement. “Most of our members work full-time. We do what we can. But, my God, we have so many executions we don’t do anything but go up to Huntsville to protest.”

Brewer, 44, will die for his role in the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr., an African-American who was dragged two miles down a lonely Jasper County road in a crime that shocked and sickened the nation.

Unlike Buck’s case, in which Texas Defender Service lawyers filed a barrage of appeals and held news conferences with a surviving victim who urged the killer’s life be spared, Brewer’s presents few legal options or grounds for empathy.

“He is not a sympathetic person,” Rubac conceded.

Kristin Hule, president of the Texas Coalition to End the Death Penalty, said that while her group’s members “unconditionally oppose all executions,” her Austin-based organization must “as a matter of resources and capacity focus on the case that’s right in front of us,” referring to two cases with execution dates before Brewer’s.

Law enforcement officials who recently visited Brewer on death row said he expressed no contrition for the Byrd murder.

Brewer was one of two Byrd murder suspects sentenced to die. The other, John William King, remains on death row. A third, Shawn Allen Berry, was sentenced to life in prison.

On June 7, 1998, the trio grabbed Byrd, who was walking along a local road, beat him, then attached log chains to his ankles and dragged him about two miles behind a pickup. Byrd was decapitated when he struck a culvert.

The killers dumped Byrd’s body at a Jasper County cemetery, then went to a barbecue. Brewer’s DNA was found on a cigarette and beer bottle at the crime scene. Byrd’s blood was found on his shoe.

Brewer and King, who met in prison, were avowed white supremacists.

A Black man is convicted of killing a White man, but there is reasonable doubt he did it. A White man is convicted of killing a Black man, but shows no remorse for doing it.

Davis is alleged to have gunned down a police officer.   He denies it.  Brewer was convicted of chaining a Black man to the back of a truck and dragging him down a road until he was decapitated.  He’s probably happy about the whole thing.

Which one of them deserves to live and which of them deserves to die?

We're civilized. We sterilize the needle before we kill them.

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