|David Westcott and Marcia Bufford at the 2006 Homeless Memorial Day. Photo by City of Cleveland|
An Assault on our Morality
A great friend of the Coalition, David Westcott, passed away a couple of years ago, and was one of the organizers of the local anti-death penalty group. For years I knew David only with regard to his hunger and homeless work. I was surprised to see him at Old Stone Church for a prayer service when Ohio began executing people again in the 1990s. I should have realized that David was a part of all the social justice groups in Cleveland, but we had never talked about other issues besides hunger and homelessness. David would be profoundly sad after the death of Troy Davis by the State of Georgia last Wednesday and the message it sends to the rest of the world.
We have to say upfront that the death of any law enforcement officer and in fact anyone who dies while serving the public is a tremendous loss for our society. We cannot forget the initial incident and the victim of the crime in question. Off duty police officer, Mark MacPhail, intervened in a fight that involved a homeless man. Sylvester Coles was pistol whipping Larry Young, the guy experiencing homelessness. Officer MacPhail, a father of two young children, intervened and was shot twice and killed. Intervening to help a homeless guy in Georgia is a courageous and rare act, and we can't forget that this entire incident was about a police offer keeping the peace when he was struck down.
The problem is that the case against Davis as the shooter had crumbled over the years. The vast majority of witnesses recanted their testimony, and the two who remained changed their story. There was no physical evidence or even any evidence tying the gun to Davis. It just seems that if there is such a large amount of doubt, taxpayers should not tolerate an execution on our behalf. It is a loss of stature on the world stage that we cling to executions especially with such a flimsy evidence. It is hard to condemn Iran for keeping our two hikers for two years in jail, when we have engaged in torture of potential terrorists and we executed Davis in Georgia with limited evidence and Humberto Leal Garcia by the state of Texas without giving him appropriate counsel from Mexico. It is just one more of a thousand cuts to our moral standing as a society. As a social justice organization, we are hurt by the taking of a life by the state especially one with so many questions. As a citizen of the United States, we are all harmed by the state killing a citizen with all the concern, doubt and confusion surrounding the case. All acts of revenge by the State are improper, but this one was especially painful.
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