Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Wall

The state of Georgia is now waiting to execute wrongfully convicted Troy Davis until it hears about the status of the last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States submitted by the defense. The 7:00pm eastern time at which the execution was to take place has come and gone. Troy Davis refused the privilege of a specially ordered last meal and ate the regular prison meal in preparation for his death.
The psychological torture being inflicted by this process is beyond my power to imagine. I recall Sartre's story "The Wall" told from the perspective of a condemned prisoner, or the story about Dostoyevsky's experience in prison when he was told he was going to be executed, marched out to a shooting squad, who were ordered to take aim, then at the last minute, the sentence having been commuted, he was sent back to his cell.
If Troy Davis does manage to avoid the death chamber, he will no doubt be struggling with the psychological scars of this torture for the rest of his life.


  1. We live in an imperfect world, nothing is going to right until God steps in. What punishment would you give a rapist or murderer?

  2. Thanks for the comment. I agree that the world is far from perfect, but I believe the universal moral thrust which expresses itself in most of our great religions impels us to do our best to improve conditions for life on earth so far as that is in our power. Jesus modeled this role in much of his teachings on non-resistance to evil (i.e. "turn the other cheek"). Under my theory of morality we are not justified in punishing another's bad acts on the basis of vengeance. Instead we have reason to seek to rehabilitate criminals as well as to protect society from those who truly represent an ongoing threat.
    The death penalty, however, cannot be justified by any coherent theory of morality. I believe this should be an uncontroversial assertion. Please read the research paper on the Death Penalty that I posted two posts above, I believe it lays out a good generic case against capital punishment.
    Nonetheless, even if the Death Penalty is sometimes appropriate, in the case of Troy Davis there were serious questions as to whether the evidence used to convict him was valid. In situations like this we must err on the side of life.

  3. Hello again, what do we do with the writings of Moses that say one life for the one of another, or if one takes a life his life will be given(Ex21:12;Lev24:17)?. But then I do realize that there are mistakes, innocent lives being taken,which I am not happy for. I'm not sure where I stand, but I do think I'm closer to making sure a murderer or rapist is punished with death, a 100% assurity of them never hurting another person again.

  4. "what do we do with the writings of Moses that say one life for the one of another, or if one takes a life his life will be given(Ex21:12;Lev24:17)?"

    What do we do with them? We disregard them, just as we disregard when the bible tells us to stone people to death for gathering sticks on the sabbath (Num 15:32), or that the value of a man's life is 5 shekels (Num 3:47), or that we can have slaves (Lev 25:44), or that we should stone people to death for blasphemy (Lev 24:16), or the other thousand examples of unevolved morality in the bible. We disregard the bad, practice the good and learn from both.