They did. They killed Troy Davis.

Here was a guy convicted of shooting a policeman, a guy who did 20 years on death row in Georgia. Over the course of those 20 years most of the witnesses who put him there changed their minds about what they saw, some pointing the finger elsewhere. Over the course of those 20 years they didn’t find a murder weapon or a scrap of DNA to put Troy Davis as the killer. Seems like maybe he was innocent. They killed him anyway.

He’d had three false starts for dying. Back in 2008 his clock had counted down to 90 minutes to death before he was given a stay of execution. That might strike you as a torture of the cruel and unusual type. This time they killed him. They killed him four hours past deadline, 10 minutes after the needle hit his arm. Those would have been four long hours and 10 long minutes. Now here’s a guy gone from the world.

A few hours earlier they killed Lawrence Russell Brewer. Here was a guy convicted of killing a stranger, a guy who did 10 years on death row in Texas. Here was a murderer, a white supremacist who chained James Byrd Jr to the back of his truck and dragged him to his death because he was black. Here was a racist, hateful, hate filled murderer the world could do without. They killed him. They shouldn’t have. They shouldn’t have killed him.

There are two reasons to want the end of the death penalty. First, because it kills innocent people. Second, because it kills people. It turns us into murderers. Four men are dead now instead of two.

If you’re into the innocence angle it’s enough to know innocent people have been put to death. The first time it happened we should have finished with the death penalty, should have figured the whole point of the point of no return. There are big numbers showing how we get things wrong. The Innocence Project reckons 273 people have had their convictions overturned with DNA evidence, 17 of them having done time on death row. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), which had a hand in trying to keep Troy Davis alive, reckon in the past two years four people have been killed for crimes they didn’t commit.

If you’re into the other angle, the basic principle of a government not putting its people to death, of humans not killing other humans, it should be enough to know the company America keeps in the death penalty club; the likes of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Zimbabwe. There’s no moral high ground in sight there.

They killed Troy Davis. The NCADP is September’s Charity of the Month. You can donate here and help fund their campaigns, see if they can’t do better for the next guy.

Photo credit: Georgia Department of Corrections