Will the Davis Execution Fuel Opposition to the Death Penalty?

“Let’s take one more moment to digest the execution last night of Troy Davis.

The level of interest that the case generated was striking — political figures, celebrities, and anti-death penalty opponents worldwide rallied to Davis’s defense, pleading in recent days for Georgia to spare his life.

The question now is whether the debate over the Davis execution will fuel a broader debate about the merits of the death penalty?

Before we address that, let us briefly recap that Davis was convicted for killing police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in 1989. The conviction rested largely on eyewitness testimony, and many of the witnesses later recanted or altered their testimony.

Davis vigorously maintained his innocence up until the time he was executed.

The jury in Davis’s murder trial was aware that some of the eyewitness accounts of the murder were shaky, as noted in this detailed AP account of the case. And many, many judges reviewed the case but declined to overturn the conviction.

The level of interest in the case seems to owe in part to the skill of Davis’s advocates in galvanizing broad based support.  Change.org, which bills itself as a platform for social change, released a statement yesterday noting that it had helped launch petition drives that had gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures from Davis supporters.

Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said anti-death penalty groups were amazed at the public reaction to the case. “This case went viral,” Cox said last night, speaking to reporters in Jackson, Georgia, which houses the prison where Davis was executed with a three-drug cocktail. “It took off globally,” Cox said. “He’s now a household name.””

Wall Street Journal Law Blog has the full story.

Photocredit: Newsone.com