Death Penalty: Emotions or Facts?

Troy Davis

Yesterday on Facebook a friend posted a video by T-V judge Greg Mathis with comments about Wednesday night’s execution of convicted killer Troy Davis in Georgia.  With the video the person who posted it directed a question specifically to me, and to me only asking my opinion.  I was curious and asked, “why me?”  Their reply was: I always like to hear [your] point of view whether I agree with it or not. I think [your] smart and intelligent.  Well… what can I say to that?  Never afraid to express my political opinions on Facebook, and always looking for a writing challenge (those warm subjects) I responded as follows:


To fully address your question would take a lot more words than offered here to do it justice. I don’t intend to get in some ongoing debate about this case with those who all they know is what they read in the newspapers and see on T-V. I can tell you — as a former broadcast news reporter — news reporting is often totally unreliable for a clear picture on complicated matters like murder cases and appeals. Often one needs to dig beyond the reporting. Most aren’t willing to do that. Mix in the notables and cause-celebs who sometimes come out of the woodwork, with questionable motives; add the personal biases and opinions of the reporters themselves, who shape those stories and further cloud the facts and all you have is something worthy of lining the bottom of a birdcage with.

Judge Mathis’ 2 1/2 minute emotionally charged video appeal (which he couldn’t even do without 8 or 9 edits), while appealing to the emotions, runs quite contrary to the real facts (those dirty little facts) that were the Troy Davis case. Mathis’ first point is that Davis “maintained his innocence to the very end.” How many convicted murderers are we aware of that say the same thing? Don’t you know our prisons are full of innocent people? There were more than 60 witnesses called in the Davis case, not 9 as Mathis and others claim. (If they can’t accurately report that single, easily verifiable fact correctly, what else might they have gotten wrong?) Of the seven so-called recantations the appeals judge rightfully described defense efforts to overturn the conviction as “largely smoke and mirrors”, and decided that several of the affidavits were not recantations at all. Only one was judged wholly credible and two were only partly credible. A fact that these naysayers never mention. In its case brought before the U.S. Supreme Court Davis’ defense team dropped the witness recants and didn’t mention them as a basis for their appeal.

Mark MacPhail

Unfortunately we hear so little about the real victim, 27-year old Mark MacPhail, the father of two young children. MacPhail had served as an Army Ranger for six years and was shot through the heart and in his face without drawing his weapon. All in an effort to aid a homeless man being pistol whipped at the time. There are injustices in the judicial system, no question about it. But in this case, after years of appeal and reexamination of the real facts, justice was served. Troy Davis is dead.

Judge Mathis Weighs In

9 thoughts on “Death Penalty: Emotions or Facts?

  1. The main problem I have with the death penalty is that if the person is later found to be innocent, then that person is also still very dead! I have no idea whatsoever in this case as to the claims that were made about his innocence. But I would much rather see the death penalty eliminated completely since there is no way to compensate if an error was made.

    There are times when some heinous crimes are committed and the death penalty seems like it would be a fair -or the only fair -way to give justice. But does taking another life, giving yet another family a reason to mourn, ever truly bring justice and peace to the family of the victim? To me, it just perpetuates the grief, piling more and more on to others who don’t deserve to be punished -i.e. the accused’s family.

    I’d much rather see people be given a life sentence, with no option perhaps, for parole. But that’s just my opinion too and I’ve never been a position to test how I would really react if a member of my family had been murdered and I hope that I never have to deal with something like that too.

    1. I agree with you Jeni! The fact that there have been 130 people convicted and placed on Death Row only to have their conviction overturned and be found innocent is enough information for me to say the Death Penalty must be done away with…but that is just me.


  2. I’m ambivalent regarding the death penalty. I agree with many who say that if a person is executed in error it can’t be taken back. On the other hand I see good purpose in it. The pair who invaded a home, in I believe New Jersey, a while back, and raped and murdered the wife and daughters definitely deserve it. And, there is more than enough proof to say that putting those two to death is not an error.

    Our trial system is not perfect but it is the best in the world. I don’t know how we could change it to make it any more fair. But when it comes to the death penalty, potential mistakes worry me.

    1. I would not want to be the victim of an unjust execution, either as the one executed, family or friend. But nevertheless my faith is that there are worse things than dying and all things will be made whole in the end. Justice will be served either this side of death or on the other.

      Thanks for visiting and for your comment.

  3. I would say that the possibility of wrongly executing an innocent man or woman should be reason enough to be against the death penalty. In the case where evidence is not in dispute, I know you will ask, but what about the rights of the victims and their family? To that I can only say that the justice system will ensure that the criminal never sees the light of day. This is, in effect, a death sentence.

    1. Thanks MC for your comment.

      I believe capital punishment is a matter to be decided by our individual states and through the processes of law. I neither promote nor oppose it. For one who has faith in a loving God and life beyond the grave, with a view toward an eternal perspective, I believe there are worse things than dying.

      In all the recent polls conducted by the likes of Gallup, Rasmussen, Harris and Pew, around two-thirds — or 65% of Americans — continue to support the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, while 31% oppose it. More than 30 states have statutes allowing it. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional. Welcome to the minority.

      Against the odds, I hope you’ll visit again.

      1. How does killing justify killing?

        It’s justified by a civilized society that is bound by law and by the courts that have upheld capital punishment.  It’s justified by ensuring a convicted killer does not kill again.  It protects the lives of others including the guards who work in the prisons, as well as other staff members. 

        They’re lives are constantly at risk, and have in fact been lost, to convicted killers who have no penalties to bear beyond their lifetime of incarceration.  Kill another?  What’s there to lose?  Not to mention other inmates, whose lives are also at risk, who may be no more guilty than some believe Troy Davis to have been.

        Yes it is most definitely justified.

        Thanks again MC.

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