Alex Massie Alex Massie

Scenes From An Execution

It’s important to insist that the argument about Troy Davis’s execution does not actually really rest on whether he is innocent or not. Nor is it actually the point that there are grounds for wondering if his conviction is entirely safe. We should not execute wrongly-convicted people is a necessary but not sufficient case against the death penalty. Guilt need not matter to the anti-execution party; it must or should matter to the pro-execution party.

By way of demonstrating this, I submit that heinous as his crime was and despite the absence of any doubt, it remains grotesque that the state of Texas is executing this man:

A white supremacist gang member was headed to the death chamber Wednesday for the infamous dragging death 13 years ago of James Byrd Jr., a black man from Jasper in East Texas.

Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and pulled whip-like to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history.

Appeals to the courts for inmate Lawrence Russell Brewer, 44, were exhausted and no last-day attempts to save his life were filed.

Besides Brewer, John William King, now 36, also was convicted of capital murder and sent to death row for Byrd’s death, which shocked the nation for its brutality. King’s conviction and death sentence remain under appeal. A third man, Shawn Berry, 36, received a life prison term.

“One down and one to go,” said Billy Rowles, the retired Jasper County sheriff who first investigated the horrific scene. “That’s kind of cruel, but that’s reality.”

A vile man who committed a vile crime? Indubitably. Does that mean it is right to execute him? No. The death penalty remains a barbarous thing and a moral obscenity to boot.

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