Everyone now knows Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was accused by Nafissatou Diallo, a hotel maid in New York, of sexual assault. Three months after Strauss-Kahn was arrested, prosecutors dismissed all charges against him, stating that the Manhattan maid who accused him of sexual assault had told so many lies about her past that her story could no longer be considered reliable. “If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt,” the prosecution wrote in its motion to dismiss, “we cannot ask a jury to do so.”
Whatever you think really happened with the maid, criminal jurisprudence says the accused is entitled to the benefit of any reasonable doubt. This is what motivated prosecutors to dismiss the case. Point duly made.
Now Troy Davis. Amnesty writes: ‘Troy Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia in 1989. No physical evidence directly links Davis to the murder – no murder weapon was ever found’. USA Today adds: ‘His supporters say he is innocent, noting that 10 witnesses in the case have signed affidavits recanting their testimony and indicating that police coerced them into implicating Davis. They also point out that nine people have signed affidavits implicating another man.’
On Wednesday, Troy Davis is scheduled to die by lethal injection in a prison in Jackson, Georgia. Again, whatever you think happened when the police officer was murdered in 1991, the accused is entitled to the benefit of any reasonable doubt, even if we are talking about murder and how awful it may sound. Unlike DSK (who didn’t kill anyone, as far as I know) who at worst, ‘only‘ faced a prison sentence, Davis is facing execution. In this specific case more than in any other, the accused is entitled to the benefit of any reasonable doubt.
Let me play the devil’s advocate. If you support death penalty, it is because you want the person who perpetrated the crime, to die. But if you kill the wrong person, then the real perpetrator may still be free. So your death penalty is of no ‘use‘ and misses its target. I don’t think human life is dispensable given certain criteria; in Troy Davis case and in many others, unfortunately, there is doubt of his guilt and he should be given the benefit of the doubt since we are talking about death sentence. We can’t afford to make a mistake we can’t reverse.
Again, whether you support the death penalty or are staunchly against it, you can’t afford to have any doubt. If you have any, then you must take everything into consideration. Killing someone who killed is one thing (although the Lex Talionis, ‘an eye for an eye’, didn’t end crimes or we should know it by now), but killing someone who could be innocent is another thing. Now only the Board of Pardons and Paroles can commute Davis death sentence to life in prison with or without parole. We will soon know what the panel decides.