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Stop the madness, death penalty

ELINOR TATUM Publisher and Editor in Chief | 10/12/2011, 6:19 p.m.
When guidance counselors need to care

As I sit here, I ponder the difference between murder and the death penalty.

murder

Noun: The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.

Death penalty

Noun: The punishment of execution, administered to someone convicted of a capital crime.

So what is the real difference? From what I see, the only difference between murder and the death penalty is that one is sanctioned by the government, making the premeditated killing of one human being by another legal.

The death penalty has been debated for decades. Moratoriums on the death penalty have been imposed in several states on the basis that so many people on death row had their convictions overturned that in a just world they could not continue to execute people who could be innocent.

Therein lies the essence of the issue. There are people who are on death row who are innocent. There are people who have been executed who were innocent. There are people who are either on death row or have been executed who did not have competent counsel.

Now we have another case where a life lies in the balance. Troy Davis was accused and convicted of killing a Georgia police officer in 1991. At the time of his conviction, there were nine eyewitnesses who testified against him.

Since then, seven of those nine have recanted or contradicted their original testimony. Many have stated, in sworn affidavits, that they were coerced by the police into fingering Davis.

Of the two witnesses left who have not changed their stories, one is Sylvester "Red" Coles, who happens to be the other main suspect in the killing. There is even new evidence, according to the defense, that implicates Coles as the real gunman. And there are nine witnesses who have signed affidavits pointing the finger at Coles.

Yet the state of Georgia still wants to murder Davis. In this day and age, with all of the supposed CSI technology we have, we still seem to get convictions wrong-especially when the accused are men of color. This, coupled with the fact that most of the witnesses against Davis have changed their stories, shows us that there is clear doubt in this case. His execution has been stayed three times, but at this writing, it looks like he will be killed at 7 p.m. tonight.

Why do we as a society feel the desire to sanction the state's killing of people? Isn't there enough death and hate already in the world? How does it help us to "punish" someone with death? Such acts of supposed revenge simply makes our society crueler, not more just.

The death penalty is wrong and it is bad policy. I don't want to see Davis appear as another statistic showing how the death penalty was used to kill an innocent person.

Guilty, innocent-frankly, it does not matter. The death penalty needs to be abolished. While it seems as though it may be too late to save Davis, perhaps these words and the continued call of others will one day bring sanity to this issue, and we can stop losing the Davises of the world.