Debating Troy Davis’s Entertaining Death
THE death of Troy Davis:
Steve Kornacki is hopeful but not optimistic:
It’s tempting to wonder if the Troy Davis story — which has received considerable press attention …. — might serve as a public opinion tipping point. But that potential is balanced against another reality: For all of the systemic flaws that have been revealed in the past decade or so — for all of the innocent people who have been freed after years of incarceration — the basic eye-for-an-eye nature of the death penalty remains compelling for most Americans, a sentiment reinforced by the occasional horrific crime…The reality is that we have seen other cases like Troy Davis’ before — Perry may have presided over one of them just a few years ago in Texas — and it will probably take a lot more of them before Americans ever give up on the death penalty for good.
Dahlia Lithwick argues:
Advances in science and the empirical research on erroneous convictions are only going to create more doubt in the future. There is an almost unlimited supply of prosecutorial error and misconduct to draw on, and as it grows so will public uncertainty. And as the new media and social media broaden the debate about the death penalty, the folks who are leery of that uncertainty are ever more likely to be heard. America’s conversation over capital punishment has long been weighted toward the interests of finality. But there is a growing space for reason and doubt and scientific certainty. It’s hardly a surprise that prosecutors, courts, and clemency boards favor finality over certainty. That—after all—is the product they must show at the end of the day.
But maybe the surprise, and the faint hope, of the massive outcry over the execution of Troy Davis, is that the rest of us have found a way to demand more from a system that has—for too long—only needed to be good enough.