Murder and the State (Koyaanisqatsi)

Let’s try to get this straight. The state proclaims that taking a life is wrong. Someone takes the life of another. The remedy of the state is to execute the killer. Is that right? But hold on. I thought the position of the state is that taking a life is wrong. Well, it seems that taking the life of someone else is only wrong if the killer is not the state. Koyaanisqatsi.

Let’s take this to the next level. Suppose the person the state wants to murder is not guilty of the crime for which he is to be executed. In the eyes of the state, that doesn’t matter if a so-called jury of his/her peers decides that the condemned is in fact guilty and so long as the proper procedures have been followed. Koyaanisqatsi. Execution, that is legalized murder, is a mere procedural matter as far as the state is concerned.

This could be carried to the next level and the next and so on, but the reasoning can never come to a point of making sense, neither morally nor ethically nor logically.

My position on murder by the state is unequivocal. I oppose it, with no exceptions. With that behind us, let’s go on to the events of last night in the sovereign state of Georgia.

Last night at 11:08PM EST the state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis. He was convicted on the basis of nine eyewitness accounts, and some very, very poor forensics. Over the course of seventeen years the man was subjected three times to a death warrant, each of which was stayed, and a final, fourth warrant, which was not. To my mind being brought four times to the brink of oblivion was already cruel and unusual punishment, ostensibly illegal in itself. No matter. He was killed, so all that is moot, at least with respect to Troy Davis. Even among those who believe in the medieval act of capital punishment, which they no doubt view as retribution but which is in fact retaliation, there were multitudes of doubters, who felt that this execution was unjust. And so it was. Any reasonable person not guided by feelings of revenge, or perhaps simply with no feelings at all would in a fair and just world call this homicidal state act wrong.

Seven of the eyewitnesses recanted their testimony, and some of those seven said they were coerced by the police who allegedly frightened them into pointing to Troy Anthony Davis. Of those who did not take back their accusation, one was said by many to be the actual shooter. The ninth was so far away that reliable identification was basically impossible. Three jurors said that if they had known at the time of the trial what they knew today, they would not have voted for conviction. Many prominent persons, too numerous to list here, pleaded for a stay of execution, although the President said it was not “appropriate” for him to even comment on the case. It was all to no avail. He’s dead, and no proof of innocence, if such were to be found, can bring him back.

The state reserves to itself the right to kill. Certainly the death penalty for certain crimes is barbarous. The United States aligns itself with such progressive nations as Iran and Yemen, North Korea and yes, China, one of the worst offenders, even though it’s the workers paradise. According to Amnesty International, more than two-thirds of all the nations in the world have actually or effectively thrown the death penalty into the dustbin of history. Lamentably, not so very long ago, the death penalty was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but that august body has progressively (sic) become more reactionary as the years pass. In a ludicrous fashion, several Justices call for a strict interpretation of the Constitution, by which they mean to strive to adhere to the intentions of the Founding Fathers, whoever they were, and whatever their intentions actually were. By this standard, one of the current Associate Justices would be counted as only two-thirds of a human being and might well be a chattel slave, and another would effectively not exist, or at least would not be allowed to participate in the affairs of the nation because the female gender was not considered worthy. None would be on the Court if they did not own land.

In some quarters all this is simply racism, and one cannot gainsay the fact that most who are executed are from minorities, yet clearly there is more to it than that. Most on death row are also poor. But even if each and every soul executed were part of the monied class, it would still be murder.

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