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Friday, December 8, 2023

Guest Opinion: Troy Davis

I am no legal expert, merely someone who tries to see the good in situations, in a world that seems to be all about the bad. With that said, I am rather disheartened in the proceedings surrounding Troy Davis’ execution. 

Yes, he was tried and convicted of killing a police officer. However, several key witnesses have recanted or changed their testimonies and said their original testimonies were given under intimidation by police. No physical evidence proving that Troy Davis pulled the trigger exists. 

I have to ask, in a world where we demand conclusive proof for everything and anything, how can we execute someone with the smallest shred of doubt that they were responsible? This case makes me wonder, is the death penalty in America worth it? Other than Timothy McVeigh, have we executed a mass murderer or someone who committed a crime so heinous that killing them in retribution has been a logical and proportionate response?

This time of year in the Jewish religion, Jews everywhere are asking their friends, their family members, co-workers and acquaintances for forgiveness for any wrongs they have done to their fellow man. It is said that on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the Book of Life (and man’s fate) is written and 10 days later on Yom Kippur, the Book is sealed. The proverbial Gates of Heaven close with the conclusion of Yom Kippur. There are three things that are said to keep one from a decree of death: repentance, prayer and good deeds. 

As a friend of mine said to me about this situation, Troy Davis “was at peace when we went … he has either been sentenced or acquitted by the only Judge who matters, and is receiving whatever treatment he truly deserves for the first time in 20 years. ” 

He continued to say that, eerily, with the execution delay, the Book of Life for Davis was written exactly a week early. Davis asked God to have mercy on the souls of his executioners and that God blesses them.

May we all remember to abide by the saying “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and remember, in this time of year and always, we should engage in repentance, good deeds and acts of charity.

As a member of the generation that learned to enjoy reading with Harry Potter, I cannot help but think about Dumbledore’s famous belief about love and repentance. And in that spirit, it is disheartening to think about cases like Stan “Tookie” Williams, who frequently spoke out against his gang member past and took an activist stance to encourage others to avoid it. Is killing someone who has seen the error in their past ways right? I don’t have an answer here, but it is a question I struggle with.

I struggle with the idea of capital punishment as a justified response to a killing, and I hope that you all do too. It is time we look inwardly on ourselves as a country. According to one statistic, the countries with the most executions recently, in order, are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Congo, Egypt and then the U.S. Is that really the company of nations we want to be in?

ARI POLSKY can be reached at apolsky@ucdavis.edu.

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