The Washington Post

Troy Davis to be executed tonight — are people angry about Davis’ case or the death penalty?

Troy Davis is getting ready to die tonight — for the fourth time.

Troy Davis. (Georgia Department of Corrections/Reuters)

And then, at 7 p.m., Davis will die of lethal injection for the shooting death of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail.

Hundreds of thousands of supporters have rallied around Davis to say he shouldn’t be executed.

Supporters point out that of the nine eyewitnesses in 1989 who said Davis had killed MacPhail, seven have recanted, and two others say another man is guilty. They point to the lack of physical evidence tieing Davis to the crime. They argue that Davis was convicted because he is black. They say this case shows everything that is wrong about capital punishment.

His supporters range from celebrities to songwriters to former presidents and the Pope.

But do the majority of supporters care about the case because they are against the death penalty? Or because Troy Davis strikes a special chord?

“What really tests a principled position against the death penalty are cases like Lawrence Brewer,” Greg Mitchell writes in the Nation Wednesday.

Lawrence Brewer is scheduled to die tonight, too, at the exact same time as Davis. Except Brewer is to be executed for a different kind of crime — the racist hate crime murder of James Byrd in Jasper, TX in 1998. Brewer participated in brutally dragging Byrd to death. Byrd was alive for most of it, lost body parts as he was dragged and was finally decapitated. Brewer was a white supremacist at the time, and he is unrepentant of the crime now.

The National Coalition Against the Death Penalty wrote in an e-mail today, “Please join NCADP in opposing the executions of both men. We stand against all executions without reservation.”

How many more supporters of Davis would say that?

Perhaps not many. A recent Gallup poll showed that the number of Americans who are in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder has risen drastically over time.

In 1967, just 40 percent believed in the death penalty for a person convicted of murder, less than the percentage of people who opposed it. Today, support for the death penalty for a person convicted of murder has shot up to 64 percent, while just 20 percent of people oppose it.

Another indicator of the unique consideration supporters are making for Davis’ case is that comparisons are being made between his case and that of Casey Anthony’s, the Florida mother charged with killing her two-year-old daughter. When Anthony recently went free, much of the public said they still believed she was guilty.

A Kentucky-based supporter of Davis, Kelvin Davis, wrote on Google+ Tuesday, “Casey Anthony is free and Troy Davis will be murdered at tomorrow. I'm supposed to believe in this justice system?”


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