On Wednesday evening, students held a vigil on the Walker Art Building steps in protest of Troy Davis’ impending execution in Jackson, Georgia. Davis, an African-American, was convicted of murdering a white police officer and was executed by lethal injection on Wednesday night following several hours of uncertainty while the Supreme Court declined to review his case. Davis’ guilt remained in question as his conviction was based largely on the statements of witnesses, most of whom later recanted their testimonies. Davis maintained his innocence even minutes before his death.
Davis’ execution was a miscarriage of justice and a failure of the American legal system. The sentence was based on shoddy testimonies and inadequate physical evidence. Particularly unsettling is the fact that nine people have signed affidavits implicating another suspect as the gunman. Yet this was not enough for the Supreme Court to declare an injunction, even with appeals from former President Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI. It is probable that race played a role in the court’s decision as well: according to the Death Penalty Information Center, 246 African-Americans have been executed for killing whites, but only 15 white defendants have been executed for the murder of black victims since 1976.
In light of the considerable degree of uncertainty over Davis’ guilt, his execution once again calls into question the institution of capital punishment. Can a court sentence someone to death if there remains even a shred of doubt over the charges? The court that sentenced Davis, the Georgia State Attorney General, the Georgia Court of Pardons, and the Supreme Court are responsible for the execution of a man who may have been innocent.
The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which comprises Nick Daniels, Sam Frizell, Linda Kinstler, Zoë Lescaze and Elizabeth Maybank.