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Last night I tossed and turned and couldn’t get to sleep. I kept thinking about the name that has been on almost everyone’s mind lately (and certainly on Twitter and Facebook): Troy Davis. 

As we are all aware, Georgia executed him last night and again, I was reminded that we still live in a savage society in many ways.

As an animal rights activist, I have many sleepless nights mourning the murder of innocent, sentient beings. Death is something activists deal with every day.

I have never believed in the death penalty. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” is one of my favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi.

It doesn’t matter to me if Mr. Davis was guilty or not. But isn’t the sting of it even worse when we consider that no physical evidence directly linked him to the murder of off duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail, no murder weapon was ever found, the case against him primarily rested on witness testimony, which contained inconsistencies (even at the time of the trial)- seven of nine key witnesses recanted or changed their testimony, some even alleging police coercion?

This man maintained his innocence like all the other victims of the system who were executed and then later found to be innocent. (Since 1900, 350 people have been wrongly convicted of homicide or capital rape). 

But again, guilty or innocent, the death penalty brings out the feelings that I try very hard to not allow into my mind … hopelessness in humanity, loss of faith in the law of karma and despair in our ability to evolve spiritually as citizens of the world.

First of all, there is no evidence to support the claim that the death penalty is a more effective deterrent of violent crime than, say, a sentence of life in prison.

Haven’t we all read the statistical studies that have compared the murder rates of jurisdictions with and without the death penalty and have read that the rate of murder is not related to whether the death penalty is an option? Fact: There are as many murders committed in jurisdictions with the death penalty as in those without.

But again, even if it DID deter violent crime I would STILL be against it.  And when we get into race it becomes even more disturbing -the color of a defendant and victim’s skin, statistics have proven, plays a crucial and sickening role in deciding who receives the death penalty in America.

People of color have accounted for a disproportionate 43 % of total executions since 1976 and 55% of those currently awaiting execution. But again, even these numbers aren’t why I am against supporting the states’ right to take a life.

Condemning someone to death sends a message that life isn’t something to be respected/valued. What legitimizes the taking of a life more than having the state do it behind prison bars? What message does that send to children?

Is it correct to tell kids that if somebody bites them in pre-school they should bite them right back?  A society based on revenge isn’t an evolved society … it’s a dangerous, emotionally corrupt one.

Think about it, capital punishment is morally wrong and inhumane. To deliberately murder someone who has been jailed and no longer poses a direct threat to society is murder.

We are not G-d and the courts are playing G-d by deciding who lives and who dies. It is gut wrenching enough to make end of life/euthanasia/pulling the plug decisions on behalf of our beloved family members and companion animals when they are suffering without any cure available. 

This is done for the higher good … to reduce suffering selflessly. What is happening in that room where a man or woman is strapped down and shot with a lethal injection (or worse) is not euthanasia, it is murder, plain and simple.

If we think it’s OK to take the life of a convicted murderer, than why do we cringe at limb-chopping or stoning people to death? Really, what is the difference?

Are we not simply allowing society to reduce itself to the ethical level of the murderer if we don’t protest it? Until we stand up and vote no to capital punishment, we are all guilty.

And as for me, I don’t want the blood of any person on my hands … innocent or guilty. I believe with every fiber of my being that one day the death penalty will be as globally illegal as eating the flesh of tortured animals..”You may say that I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one” – just look at the faces of the protestors who worked so hard to get Georgia to pardon Troy Davis.

We may have failed him but it doesn’t end with him – our most powerful weapon is our vote. Vote against capital punishment in honor of Troy Davis…. It’s the least we can do and the most we can do. RIP.

-Simone Reyes

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