After decades of litigation, the final legal ruling allowing the execution of Troy Davis was a one-sentence order from the United States Supreme Court so terse that it could have fit neatly into a Twitter message with room to spare.
But it is hardly the last word on the case, or in the national debate over the death penalty.
The finality of Mr. Davis’s sentence, and the outpouring of protest worldwide, leaves in its wake more than its share of questions — some that go beyond the facts of the case to encompass fundamental issues relating to capital punishment itself. Because the Savannah police officer he was convicted of killing in 1989, Mark MacPhail, was white and Mr. Davis was black, the progress of Mr. Davis’s case over two decades widened fault lines on the death penalty and, in particular, over the question of whether a black person in the South could be guaranteed the same justice as a white one.
The nature of those doubts and the arguments for Mr. Davis’s innocence — which one judge dismissed as “smoke and mirrors” — could be, and will be, debated endlessly. And while no judge who reviewed the minimal physical evidence and the testimony and witness recantations in the case ever ruled to overturn Mr. Davis’s conviction, the activist community portrayed him as a symbol of the fallibility of eyewitness identification, of the intransigence of the justice system and its unwillingness to correct errors — and even as a failure of the nation itself.
“The execution of an innocent man crystallizes in the most sickening way the vast systemic injustices that plague our death penalty system,” Denny LeBoeuf , director of the Capital Punishment Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “No innocent person should ever be put to death, and it is unconscionable and unconstitutional to carry out an execution where, as in the case of Troy Davis, significant doubts exist.”
Continue reading the remainder of the article here: In Death-Penalty Debate, Execution Offers Little Closure.