I confess that living in a metro area has made me a little calloused. When I watch the nightly murder report, I see the weeping victims and the dutiful police. Beyond my pity and thankfulness for good fortune in my own life, I feel helpless and if I say a little prayer for all concerned there’s never an indication of prayer’s result. I’m sorry, it all seems so deja vu. In the case of Troy Davis in the mix of my pre-occupations and personal interests, I was vaguely aware that there was a controversy going on. Where this time? St. Louis, Los Angeles, Newark — where this time? Someplace in Georgia.
As on every evening, I was seated at the kitchen counter having a beer, playing solitaire and half-listening to Chris Matthews and Lawrence O’Donnell as my wife prepared our dinner. We were feeling grateful that our elder dog had returned happily from the vet. All the networks were focused on eleventh-hour countdown. Would a stay of execution be handed down from the Supreme Court? I was tempted to watch the re-play of the Royals-Tigers game, but I didn’t. An inexplicable guilt lay upon me. Eventually the Media worked its hypnosis and I was drawn into the drama, the vigil outside some prison somewhere in Georgia.
I heard about the case that was twenty-two years old. The convict had been in jail all those years, half of my working career. We checked out one of the new sitcom debuts and pronounced it not worth further consideration. We had dinner and watched “Two Broke Girls” which made us laugh and seemed promising. We finished our dinner and I went to another room and clicked on the ball game.
I watched half an inning of the recorded event. I knew the Royals had lost. I switched over to MSNBC where the Ed Show was running. I passed the evening switching back and forth between the Troy Davis vigil and the ball game. Gradually the time I spent on MSNBC increased. I was tempted to try FOX to get another view, but, being the fair-minded creature I am, I decided I already knew their slant. Finally, in about the eighth inning I stayed on MSNBC.
Forty-five minutes and counting. I couldn’t understand why there had to be a long wait for execution after the Court declined to intervene. It seemed to me that ten minutes max ought to have been sufficient to inject and kill the man — mercifully at least. As I waited I was pulled into the suspense that only the Media can create. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be Troy Davis. Was he in an adjoining room? Was he in the death chamber strapped already to a gurney? Had they loosened the straps a little for the interminable wait? Had he taken last rites? Had he eaten? And what if he was truly innocent? What did he think about? And this was no sitcom or sports event. This was reality.
There have been certain perpetrators whose guilt could not possibly have been doubted — men who forced their victims into oral sex before the beating and killing. These guys, it seemed to me, deserved the injection. Drawing and quartering doesn’t seem inappropriate either. But the news commentators in their incessant drone had certainly convinced me of reasonable doubt, but then it was years ago. Seven witnesses recanted and appeals from all over the world had been made, including from the Holy See.
I know there was nothing Holy about what happened last night. I could not rationalize the process in any way. I also know that society cannot be blamed forever for the conditions that may or may not cause a man to kill another. And while I sympathized with the victim’s family, I could not imagine a pure expiation coming from our justice system. A loved one had been brutally killed and because I have never experienced such an act, I could not judge the family for wanting closure.
Except, except . . . what if the man was innocent? Or did we once again, feed a monstrous beast last night?
Steadfast and cautious,
D. “Tortoise” Taylor