Regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, or about the particular case of Troy Davis, there’s something worth remembering amid a frenzy such as this: There are real people involved, not least of all the man who was put to death amid doubts about his guilt.
About once a year or so, a case comes along that jars us from our complacency, reminds us that, as a society, we put people to death. Without making judgments about the efficacy of the death penalty as a deterrent against crime, or about its moral legitimacy as a form of justice, its worth noting that putting someone to death is a weighty thing, and it inevitably takes a profound toll on those involved.
The Troy Davis case was no different. As new evidence emerged over the years that cast doubt on the veracity of the witnesses’ claims — and as seven of the nine witnesses ultimately recanted their testimonies implicating Davis in the 1989 shooting of Officer Mark MacPhail — the jurors who had convicted Davis began to express their regrets.