You are not Troy Davis

Emotion does not drive the law. Tears and outcries do not outweigh fact and formal testimony in a courtroom. Justice may have died with Troy Davis for you, but with the help of Troy Davis, it is still alive for me.

Troy Davis was executed last Wednesday after serving 22 years in the Jackson State Prison of Georgia for the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail. Nearly 700 protesters sang out in opposition of Davis’ execution from outside the prison, while hundreds more gathered in Washington, D.C. and Paris, according to USA Today News. Other support for Davis surfaced from President Jimmy Carter, Diddy, Desmond Tutu, and Pope Benedict XVI.

Capital punishment is still in its prime in parts of the U.S.

Texas, for example, has conducted 235 executions in the past 11 years alone. But this is not to the dismay of the majority of Americans according to an ABC News poll, identifying 63 percent of citizens as being in favor of capital punishment.

“We are one of the few remaining first world countries that still prescribe the death penalty,” said Will Pizio, assistant professor and department chair of justice and policy studies. “Punishment is necessary for a crime, but research has been consistent in finding the death penalty as an inadequate deterrent for crime. Retribution is the bigger theory behind it.”

“I think a lot of Americans have mixed feelings about the death penalty, but in the case of Troy Davis, people from a lot of different camps were able to say, ‘No, don’t kill this person, ’cause the proof isn’t there,'” said senior Yahya Alazrak, president/clerk of community senate.

Because of this case, two significant questions surfaced.

The first was the issue of race and its role in the severe sentence Davis received. Many wondered if his sentence would have still been death had he not been a man of color.

The second issue under popular criticism is whether there was substantial evidence for his conviction in the first place.

Not only did the prosecution’s case rest solely on the testimony of nine eyewitnesses, but their testimonies were later called into question as seven of the nine recanted their previous statements. Now some argue that the death penalty should not be assigned without actual DNA evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt.

One of the most gut-wrenching realities of our society is that our criminal justice system is inherently flawed, but this is a reality we must accept so we can ease the malaise of verdicts that do not sit well with us.

Racial profiling, use of force, and consent to search are debated daily on the procedural level. In the litigation realm of the justice system we see a multitude of errors from prosecutorial misconduct to corrupt judges or jurors. Time and time again, innocent people are convicted for crimes they did not commit, and guilty defendants are mistakenly set free.

Cases like Davis’ raise awareness and cause the makers, enforcers, and litigators of our justice system to reexamine the fairness of the legal process.

In the case of Troy Davis, one thing that cannot be disputed is that he fairly received due process of law. Davis’ case was reviewed in rare and generous ways.

Davis appealed his case five times, whereas the law only guarantees one appeal, and on more than one occasion his case reached the Supreme Court. Because of the Supreme Court, the Georgia Circuit Court of Appeals reheard witness testimony, which they deemed uncompelling. The Court of Appeals denied Davis’ plea for clemency and his execution was scheduled for 7 p.m.

On Wednesday, at 11:08 p.m., Davis was pronounced dead and speculation ensued.

“I understand why the U.S. Supreme Court and the state of Georgia made their decisions, the death penalty is inherently political and sends a message,” said Alazrak. “Georgia sent the message of, ‘Don’t mess with our cops or our authority as the state government.'”

But what is often overlooked is the role that juries of our peers play in death penalty cases. It was not the federal nor the state government that sent a message here.

Rather, 12 people heard more facts and testimonies than we ever will and made one of the most difficult decisions conceivable — the decision to take another human’s life.

“Juries have to assess the efficacy of all testimonies and all factors,” said Pizio. “I fully believe we can’t make an informed decision regarding Davis’ conviction or sentencing without all the facts, and we don’t have those.”

So who are we to judge? And what right do we have to challenge the thoughtful discernment of our peers? Our energy could be better spent moving forward.

Hundreds of images on the web captured protesters holding signs that read, “I Am Troy Davis.” I have a message for those people:

No you are not.

You are you. You are alive and, if you believe in something, you can fight for it.