Irish are right to slam U.S. on death penalty
Troy Davis execution was truly barbaric
The story of Troy Davis, a convicted murderer executed in Georgia recently, has featured prominently in the Irish print, broadcast and online media for some time.
This is unsurprising given the very serious questions that were raised about his guilt by those who followed his trial and the wide range of high profile supporters Mr. Davis attracted to his cause as he appealed his original conviction.
Noting that there was no physical evidence to tie him to the crime scene and that several eyewitnesses recanted their earlier testimony, they campaigned in vain for Mr. Davis’s conviction to be set aside and a new trial to be ordered.
The attention this particular case attracted in the Irish media is surprising though in the sense that executions are still carried out in a number of US states on a fairly regular basis. And an examination of the reaction in the Irish media and among the wider public to Mr. Davis’s execution reveals that the various doubts about his guilt and the process that led to his conviction do not alone explain the widespread societal revulsion at his execution.
Two columns side by side in September 24/25th’s Irish Times manifest this revulsion and what underpins it. Donald Clarke, a self-described “bleeding-heart,” writes that “popular will drives the annihilation of condemned citizens” and that President Barack Obama, in his qualified support for capital punishment, establishes a kinship with western European “parties of the far right.”
Breda O’Brien, typically labelled a conservative Catholic commentator and patron of the Iona Institute (the Institute calls for more widespread religious practice and espouses conservative views on social issues), is similarly scathing in her appraisal of Mr. Davis’s execution and the public opinion in the United States that facilitates it.
Ms. O’Brien cites the circumstances of Mr. Davis’s case, the overrepresentation of racial minorities on death row and relatively lax procedural safeguards against the imposition of the ultimate penalty.
Even more compellingly, Ms. O’Brien takes on United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative Catholic like herself, who has argued that “the more Christian a country is, the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral. Abolition has taken its firmest hold in post-Christian Europe.”
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