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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shane Bauer, Casey Anthony and Troy Davis: Justice Served or Justice Denied?

This column will be a little hard for conservatives and Republicans to swallow. Democrats and liberals will nod knowingly, but for all the wrong reasons. A basic tenet of freedom, and a fundamental libertarian viewpoint, is that a government should never hold the power of life or death over one of its citizens - even if that citizen has been convicted of a ghastly crime.

Yesterday, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were released from an Iranian prison after being held for two years for illegally crossing the Iranian border. The Sultan of Oman paid a $1 million ransom to secure the pair's release and they were reunited with their families in Oman yesterday.

Shane Bauer had this to say:
"Two years in prison is too long and we sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in America and Iran."
This statement insulted me to my core. As an American I bristled at the mere comparison of my country to the heinous debacle that is Iran. "How dare he disrespect my country like that. Another America hater getting free press," I thought as I examined my indignation.

Then I thought about it beyond emotion.

Last night, Troy Davis was executed in Georgia for a crime he was convicted of committing in 1989. The crime was the cold-blooded murder of police officer Mark MacPhail. I maintain a high level of color-blindness in all aspects of my life, but in this particular case it is important to note that Davis is black and MacPhail was white.

Davis was convicted on eyewitness testimony. Over the years most of the eyewitnesses recanted their testimony, leaving shades of doubt in even the most rigidly pro-death penalty mind. The family of MacPhail is still understandably devastated by his murder and spoke out fervently in favor of Davis' execution. Davis maintained his innocence and his supporters pointed to the doubts in the case. All avenues of clemency and appeal were exhausted. The air was rife with an impending sense of justice as the hour of Davis' execution approached.

Yet the doubts lingered.

For society to function, an upset community is not a valid reason to execute a man, just as much as a convicted murderer's claims of innocence are no reason to set him free.

A few months ago in Orlando, a young woman was completely exonerated for the murder of her two-year old daughter because of evidentiary doubts. The nation cried with shock and horror that this most definitely (in their eyes) guilty person should be allowed to freely walk the streets after obvious involvement in her daughter's murder. The justice system is obviously imperfect the pundits claimed. We collectively shook our heads and moved on.

Casey Anthony was set free on doubt. Troy Davis was executed in spite of it.

Shane Bauer was imprisoned for two years on a trumped up political charge by a renegade religious oligarchy. His first words as a free man were hopes of freedom for unjustly held prisoners in the country that held him and the country he calls home.

For Troy Davis, Bauer's words rang hollow.

Government does not have the right to take a man's life, even if that man is proven guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt. Death does not beget justice, and no free man should ever trust his life and the lives of his fellow citizens to another man because that man is in a position of authority.

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