Troy Davis, condemned for the 1989 killing of an off-duty police officer, was put to deathWednesday night inside a Georgia state prison. Proclaiming his innocence up until the end, legions of supporters fought for Davis’ life. Davis’ own final words were: “I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask…is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth.”
To be sure, many of those who took up the cause, such as Amnesty International and the Rev. Al Sharpton, are blanket opponents of the death penalty in all cases. But, to use the words of Big Boi, a celebrity rapper and Davis supporter: because there was “just too much doubt” over whether Davis actually committed the crime, there was plenty of room for even supporters of capital punishment to back this case. Indeed, a few high-profile conservatives such as former GOP congressman Bob Barr and ex-FBI Director William Sessions, publicly got behind Davis. So where was the outcry from the wider tea party and conservative movement? With their public devotion to the Constitution and rampant complaints of big government, the Davis case would seem to have been a perfect fit for the right.
There is perhaps no aspect of government more open to error, misconduct and a heavy hand than our legal system. In the case of Troy Davis, witnesses who originally helped put him away later recanted. Witnesses also later complained that they had been pressured to finger Davis. Some even went so far as to implicate another suspect in the crime.
So why did so many activists on the right remain silent? Whether in opposition to the USA Patriot Act, international trade deals, and other matters where they felt they had common ground, conservative and tea party activists have not hesitated to link arms with liberals in the past . Was tea party reticience driven by the fact that Troy Davis was black? If so, it only would confirm ugly suspicions that tea party attitudes are driven by race.
While Troy Davis and his many supporters worldwide were fighting for his life, conservatives were busy literally cheering the long line of executions overseen by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican contender for president. One might think that these death-penalty cheerleaders should have been doing more to prevent a very possibly innocent man from being put to death and thereby staining the entire U.S. system of capital punishment. Instead, a man who very well may not have committed the crime for which he was condemned, is now dead.
And that is much more than just a shame.
Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article was first published as “In the Outcry Over Troy Davis, Where was the Tea Party?” on Blogcritics.