The Supreme Court could have saved Troy Davis’s life. There was reasonable doubt. So now two mothers are grieving or, in the case of Mrs MacPhail, attempting to grieve, the death of a son. The lex talionis (loi du talion) prevailed. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth… except that, in the current case, it was a son for a son, whether or not the son who was executed was guilty of the crime he allegedly committed: killing Mrs MacPhail’s son.
I watched Anderson Cooper’s interview with Marc MacPhail’s mother. Mr Cooper wanted to know whether Mrs MacPhail would feel “peace,” after the execution of Troy Davis.
Mrs MacPhail answered that she hoped to feel peace, but will she? Officer MacPhail, her son, is still dead. Nothing can bring him back to his family. And now, compounding matters, doubt concerning Mr Davis’s guilt lingers and will continue to linger, thus hindering peace. Therefore, executing Troy Davis is still a tragedy, but a larger one.
Troy Davis’s mother will mourn her son, but it seems unlikely Mrs MacPhail will feel peace. I hope, for her sake, that she does, but may I repeat that there was reasonable doubt as to Mr Davis’s guilt.
The lex talionis seems little more than sanctioned revenge. Moreover, what the world may have witnessed is a classic case of scapegoating. It appears that Troy Davis was the archetypal sacrificial lamb.
What is now on the stand is justice itself.
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September 22, 2011