The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.


Yesterday, I thought about writing about the complicated appeals process that Troy Anthony Davis was in the middle of, just hours before his scheduled execution. But I had homework to do, so I did it, and then I turned on the news. It was 3:45PT, so 15 minutes before his execution was scheduled to begin. On CNN, they were talking about Rick Perry or something. On MSNBC, it was the hikers imprisoned in Iran (who, by the grace of God, are free and on their way home). I even tried Fox News because I couldn't imagine that not a single major network would be live at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA, awaiting the news of Troy Davis' appeal to the US Supreme Court. They were talking about a House budget vote.

I was floored.

At this moment, I checked Facebook to see if any of my friends were posting about him, and found a link to watch DemocracyNow's live feed outside the prison. They were the only ones there. At a few minutes after 7:00ET, there was a cheer from the crowd, and people were yelling that a stay had been issued! Hallelujah! But it wasn't true. It was a temporary reprieve issued by the state of Georgia while they awaited the decision from SCOTUS. 

Meanwhile, the execution of Lawrence Brewer began in Houston, TX.

Around 7:30pmET, CNN and MSNBC started talking about the situation because it was legally interesting. We waited for nearly four hours before the decision from SCOTUS was announced. They did not grant a stay, and Troy Anthony Davis was dead at 11:08pmET. 

Two men were executed in this country last night. One was a guilty, white supremacist, monster of a human being who dragged a man behind a vehicle until he was dismembered. One was a questionably guilty black man who had been granted three previous stays of execution over the last two decades, and whose conviction had been called into question by recanted testimonies and new information. 

I would argue equally for the lives of these two men. Certainly it seems ultra tragic that a man whose innocence may be proven in the future has been put to death while there was still so much doubt in the air. But it is also tragic that any human being has been put to death at the hands of another, especially at the hands of what we call our justice system. 

The death of any human being at the hands of another is never justice. We cannot claim that we are a nation built on freedom and justice for all when we enact freedom and justice only for some.

I am not a constitutional scholar and I am not a lawyer. I do not know what the Supreme Court could have done. I do not know if Troy Davis' sentence could have been amended. But I do know that the death penalty was the wrong sentence in the first place -- for him and for every other person that this nation has put to death in its history. 

I hope that this has brought our justice system to the forefront of the minds of Americans. I hope that in the 2012 presidential election, a candidate who practically runs on the number of people his state has executed will not emerge as the leader of this great nation. I hope that juries never again recommend the death penalty as a sentence -- no matter how heinous the crime. Our justice system and our prison system are in need of serious reform, this is true. But we will never teach our children that taking the life of another human being is wrong if they watch their country do it and call it justice.

Every time I hear the word justice, I hear it in the voice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said, "We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice....No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.'"

And just like Dr. King, I do not believe that this country is bankrupt of justice. I believe that Americans can change the way we treat our neighbor -- on the street, in the classroom, in church, in the workplace, in the courthouse, in prison. 

We will not be satisfied with the cycle of abuse of our fellow human beings as it is. We will not be satisfied until the last execution chamber in our nation's prisons is defunct. We will not be satisfied until our nation can be proud of its human rights record. We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Mixtape Blitz II