Death Penalty Should Die


By Todd A. Smith

          His name was George Stinney, Jr. and he was only 14 years old.  At only 95 pounds, he was convicted of murdering two White girls who had gone missing in the Black side of town in Alcolu, S.C. 

Stinney had admitted to seeing the girls earlier that day in 1944, and that was enough to send him to the electric chair.  To date, he is still the youngest U.S. citizen ever executed for a crime.

            The Stinney execution and the recent execution of Troy Davis, despite a lack of physical evidence and witnesses changing their story is the reason we should abolish the death penalty in this country.  In 1991, Davis was convicted of murdering police officer Mark MacPhail.  Claiming innocence for 20 years, Davis’ defense attorneys were able to avoid his execution many times, but were unsuccessful in their last bid, despite an international outcry to free Davis and abolish the death penalty.

            “The incident that night was not my fault, I did not have a gun,” Davis explained to the victim’s family.  He went on to say that he was “sorry for your loss, but I did not personally kill your son, father and brother.  I am innocent.”

            Cries of innocence are not rare for convicted murderers facing execution, in fact they have become too commonplace.  From witnesses recanting their stories, to flawed DNA at crimes labs like the one in Houston, many innocent people are having their lives ended in one way or another by human flaws, which is a prime reason to abolish the death penalty.

            The execution of Davis coincidentally occurred on the same day as the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was convicted of the gruesome 1998 dragging murder of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas.  Brewer went to his death with no remorse for his killing, even claiming he would do it again. 

            Despite unrepentant killers like Brewer, we should still abolish the death penalty because two wrongs do not make a right and whenever human beings are involved, mistakes are usually involved also.  When we execute the wrong person for a crime, the real culprit is still out there putting society in danger and we have unfortunately taken a life that we cannot get back.

            Who lives or dies is God’s decision alone, not ours.  We cannot be a society that condemns violence in some situations, but condones that same violence in other situations.  In my humble opinion, we cannot call ourselves a civilized society until we abolish the death penalty.

            Sixty-seven years ago it was young Stinney who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and was sentenced to death for a crime he probably could not have committed.  And 67 years later, it was Davis who was executed for a crime he might not have committed. 

Living and dying should not be based on hearsay or what we feel at that particular time, because once life is gone, it is gone forever.  For this reason, we should not let Stinney or Davis die in vain.  We should carry on their cause, until we abolish the death penalty throughout this country.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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