AP / Charles Dharapak
I don't know if Troy Davis was innocent, but I do know that the evidence for demanding a re-examination of his conviction, including the recanted testimony of most of the witnesses against him, was overwhelming. But of course that is now beside the point, which is exactly what is so wrong about the use of the death penalty. No matter what evidence of innocence might be produced in the future, it is of consequence no longer.
That is a compelling argument against the death penalty -- no room for correction -- but there are others. The most egregious argument for capital punishment is the claim that the finality of officially condoned killing is a necessary guarantor of civilized order. Egregious because it is not possible to make that case without explaining why most of the democratic societies that we admire shun the death penalty as contrary to their most deeply held values.
Or is it China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen, which, along with the United States, led the world in government executions, that we most admire? There is something stunningly disgraceful about the company we keep on this issue.
As Amnesty International -- the world's premier human rights organization, which deserves high marks for its anti-death penalty campaign -- points out, more than two-thirds of the world's nations have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. I defy anyone to compare the list of countries that have retained the death penalty with those that have abolished it and then conclude that it serves a needed purpose.
It is obvious from the experience of those nations without the death penalty and our own 17 states that have banned capital punishment that this barbaric custom is not a necessary, let alone efficient, means for ensuring public safety. Due process in the United States, which claims to have an enlightened legal system, requires death penalty procedures that are costlier than appropriate incarceration.