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Was justice served?

Posted: September 22, 2011 10:46 a.m.
Updated: September 23, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Troy Davis died Wednesday night.

It’s been 20 years since he was convicted for the murder of an off-duty police officer. Appeals had been filed. Stays of executions have been granted.

But on Wednesday, the 42-year-old Georgia inmate had a fatal cocktail of drugs inserted into his arms.

Before his death, Davis had millions of people around the world -- including ex-president Jimmy Carter, a former FBI director and Pope Benedict XVI -- asking that his execution be delayed.

Why so much support for a man accused of killing police officer Mark MacPhail, who was gunned down while attempting to help a homeless man who was being attacked?

Many believe that Davis’ conviction -- which was largely based on testimonies -- was flawed.

Seven of nine key witnesses who testified at his trial have since disputed all or parts of their testimony, some saying that police coerced them into lying. Of the two who have not recanted, one is a man who has also been identified by other witnesses as the real killer.

Even more, no blood or DNA tied Davis to the crime, and no weapon was ever found. 

"I'm not out after blood, I'm after justice," MacPhail’s mother said before the execution. "I want my son to rest in peace."

Also on Wednesday evening, more than 700 miles away, Lawrence Brewer received a similar cocktail of lethal drugs. 

Brewer was a white supremacist who, along with other men, chained James Byrd Jr. to the back of a pickup truck and dragged him down a Jasper, Texas, road until Byrd’s head and limbs were torn from his body.

Despite the fact that Brewer remains unrepentant and recently said he would do it all over again if he had the chance, Byrd’s family asked that his life be spared.

"Life in prison would have been fine,” Byrd’s son said Tuesday. “I know he can't hurt my daddy anymore. I wish the state would take in mind that this isn't what we want."

Brewer and Davis.

Two different executions. Two entirely different circumstances.

Ultimately, one outcome for both men.

Yet, I still ask the question: was any justice served?

Some people will say the death penalty is the ultimate punishment for one’s crime. An eye for an eye makes sense, they say.

At the same time, others will argue the death penalty and justice is nothing more than dressed-up words for revenge and vengeance. 

But with all of the doubt stacked against his case, was Davis just the latest victim of our “injustice” system? 

Did MacPhail’s mother finally receive the justice she had been waiting on for 20 years, by having the court uphold its original conviction in spite of what many believe was mounting reasonable doubt?

Did a man who has yet to admit any remorse in the brutal murder of an innocent Texas man get what he deserved?

Was justice brought to Byrd’s family, in spite of several of the family members’ statements that “you can’t fight murder with murder”?

Twenty years ago, a person was considered guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if there was enough witnesses to poke holes in his alibi.

Today, Casey Anthony walks free because there wasn’t enough DNA evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she killed her toddler.

The perception of justice falls in a gray area, and is constantly changing.

Guilty? Innocent? Justice?

What do these words really mean, and what make us so qualified to determine who gets to live and die?

Two men were killed Wednesday night. 

One may not have murdered an innocent police officer.

The other, who did not appear to be remorseful for the violent murder of an innocent man, had the victim’s family asking to keep him alive because they do not support the death penalty. 

So, again I ask: was any justice served Wednesday evening? 


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