Commentary: A Tale of Two Trials

Observations on the Amanda Knox and Troy Davis cases.

Posted: 10/04/2011 02:52 PM EDT
Filed Under Troy Davis, racism

Amanda Knox, Rudy Guede and Troy Davis. (Photo: Stefano Medici/AP; Franco Origlia/Getty Images; AP)

Sex. Murder. Suspense. No wonder the Amanda Knox trial received worldwide press coverage.

 

Was justice done? That can still be debated.

 

Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Rafaele Sollecito, were initially convicted and imprisoned for the 2007 sexual assault and murder of British student Meredith Kercher. Now those convictions have been overturned on appeal. Tears of joy in the courtroom for the Knox family, but not for the Kercher clan.

 

Meanwhile Rudy Guede, an immigrant from Ivory Coast who had been tried separately and convicted of abetting Knox and Sollecito in their crime, remains in jail. If Knox and Sollecito were not guilty, whom was Guede abetting?

 

At least Guede received a partial reprieve when his original 30-year jail sentence was reduced on appeal to a mere 16-year bid. There is no death penalty in Italy — or anywhere else in Europe, except Belarus, a former republic of the Soviet Union.

 

No such reprieve was available to Troy Davis. He was denied any future chance at exoneration when he was executed by the State of Georgia on September 21 for a 1989 murder — despite widespread appeals not just for clemency, but for a new trial, since many legal experts believe his original conviction was unjust.

 

Like Knox, there was no physical evidence to link Davis to the homicide he was charged with. Several of the state’s key witnesses later recanted their testimony, saying that they were intimidated by police to testify against Davis, though they believed he had not committed the crime. Despite those circumstances — and pleas from Amnesty International, the NAACP, former president Jimmy Carter and Pope Benedict XVI, Davis was put to death.

 

The tragedy is that unlike Knox, Troy Davis didn’t even get the opportunity to prove his innocence in an appeal. If or when his name is ever cleared, he won’t be there to share in the tears of joy what would accompany such a ruling. Troy Davis is dead, killed by the great State of Georgia. How all those who participated in Davis’s execution can live with the fact that they may have killed an innocent man is well beyond me.

 

So while Amanda Knox’s family and friends celebrate her homecoming, Troy Davis’s family and friends continue to mourn the loss of their loved one. And I pray for everyone involved in Davis’s execution whose souls must have left them a long time ago. Clearly we must do something to foster justice by eliminating capital punishment in this country. 

 

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