Witness the Execution

I did not sleep last night.  Before padding up the stairs to bed, I turned on CNN and watched those who’d witnessed the execution of Troy Davis step to the podium, big notebooks clutched to their chests.  I listened as each person give his or her account of Mr. Davis’s last hours, last minutes, seconds.  And though I don’t know Troy Davis or his family and I don’t really pray, I said a little prayer for them and weeped my way to bed.

I don’t believe in the death penalty.  Though I admit that, sometimes, when a horrific crime occurs — with witnesses and confessions and undisputed evidence —  I question myself.  OJ Simpson comes to mind.  Casey Anthony.  At 2 and 3 a.m. I was imagining little Caylee Anthony, abandoned in those dark woods, and her mother out in the sunshine living her life.  4 a.m.  5 a.m.  Troy Davis is dead.

In the Davis case, the key witnesses all recanted their testimony.  How do you put someone to death with that kind of doubt?  I can’t sleep, but I figure Casey Anthony is resting in a nice warm bed tonight, and maybe she wakes up thinking she might be due for a salon appointment, should she have eggs or cereal for breakfast?, what will she do with her day….

We have no idea what the hell we’re doing.


This year my friend Charles McLeod published his first novel in the U.K., AMERICAN WEATHER, a brutal satire on our current way of life.  One of the big events in the book is a public, televised execution.  A fine new way to make millions!  Ask yourself, if significant money could be raised by advertising executions — to invest in our schools, get healthcare for children, to put the unemployed back to work — would you watch?

I’ve only read the first 30 pages of this book, but my husband finished it last week and I hope he leaves his comments here later.  You can read a review here.  This is the publisher’s description:

Meet Jim Haskin. He’s forty years old. He’s worth around thirty-five million. He runs his own San Francisco ad firm, American Weather. AmWe’s image is green, modern and forward-looking: if your product is upcycled or hydro or vegan, they’ll make you an ad. But behind the scenes, Jim manufactures ways to support the old captains of American industry; bleach, beer and guns. But all is not well: Jim’s wife, Denise, has been in a coma for over a year, a state brought on by a drug Jim helped promote. A live-in nurse, a former Salvadorian gang member, helps Jim tend to her. And Haskin’s only child, Connor, has been sent away to a boarding school three thousand miles away, after assaulting a student at his former high school. Orphaned at 14, Jim and his three closest friends grew up at Mr Hand’s Home for Well-Behaved Boys. All have profited from the American dream.

In 2008, on the brink of the Presidential election, the quartet finds themselves short on cash and look to Jim for a solution. The scheme he devises involves a Death Row inmate, pay-per-view television, and most of America’s major corporations. Everything is set for it to be his greatest achievement yet.

20 thoughts on “Witness the Execution

  1. macdougalstreetbaby

    Oh, yuck.
    All of it.
    And to those suffering, yes. I, too, say a little prayer.
    As for your friend’s book, now that sounds like a winner. Congrats to him. I’m putting it my next book club selection hat.

    1. Teri

      I asked my husband about picking it for book club and he balked. It’s pretty dense (the writing) and relentless. He didn’t think the women would like it. But I would LOVE to pick it. Imagine the meaningful debates you could have.

  2. Lyra

    Would it that fiction and nonfiction bore less of a mirror image.

    To answer the question, no, I wouldn’t watch. But not to be hypocritical, I would surely flip the switch on the man who held his daughters captive impregnating them over decades of abuse. Or the mother who sold her child’s virginity for profit, or the couple who locked their son in a cage and beat him repeatedly because he was gay. He eventually died from starvation. I would flip the switch many times over, not caring what got them to that place.

    1. Teri

      Oh believe me, when I saw the recent case of the little boy in NY who was walking to school alone for the first time and was swiped up and mutilated. All kinds of proof. I could see him go without a blink.

      Of course I say that, but could I actually insert the needles? I doubt it.

      It’s the wishy-washy nature of our death penalty system that makes me nuts.

  3. Averil Dean

    I agree with you one hundred percent. It’s interesting to me that the two cases you cited that stir in you the desire for vengence were both acquittals. I don’t know what that means, but it fits in here somewhere.

    What floors me is the way the right-wing zealots scream for the life of a fetus, a zygote even, yet have no compassion in their hearts for a fully realized human being who may or may not be guilty of the crime for which he is accused. I don’t think they perceive the irony. This is where I don’t want to go as a human being: into the realm of the unforgiving.

    1. Teri

      Yes, OJ and Casey Anthony — both glaringly guilty yet acquitted — and Troy Davis, doubts abounding, put to death.

      This is what I mean when I say we have no idea what we’re doing. Why this one and not that one?? There’s never ever a good enough answer to that question.

  4. lisahgolden

    Charles’ book sounds intriguing.

    And no way would I watch. I slept fitfully last night and woke to a terrible storm. Were I a believer in those kinds of things, I’d suggest that god was lashing Georgia for its crime.

  5. Rex

    Charles’ writing is great. Tight and snappy. Great use of different voices and persons. What made me balk at recommending to a book club group was the harsh take he has on our world. The greed and the shallowness. At times, I winced at his descriptions and clear eyed view of issues and behaviors. The contrasts between the over-indulgence and the rank poverty. The drive from a gated community with views of the Golden Gate through slums of Oakland.

    1. Teri

      Being as I’m always touting some beautifully told but horrible tale of woe when it’s my turn to pick the book (no cheerful tales of love and happiness for me!) I think my book club might not invite me back for being too much of a downer.

      1. Lyra

        I would be in a book club with you and Rex in a heartbeat. Although, it may take me a bit to get to the meetings…save me some wine!

  6. Teri

    This afternoon I got the bite in the ass. I was reading about yesterday’s testimony in the Connecticut murder trial (the doctor who’s wife and daughters were tortured and burned alive). The jury listened to the murderer’s taped confession where he describes, in flat voice as if he’s ordering lunch, how he sexually assaulted the 11 yr old before killing her.

    Yes, I’m pretty sure I could walk into his chamber, stare him right in the eye and insert every needle I could find. My only regret would be his lack of suffering.

    How’s that for your liberal, no death penalty, preacher?

    1. lizisilver

      This description pinned me, Teri. That’s me to a tee- no death penalty except for the exception. And there’s always an exception, a madman for whom I’d personally push the syringe plunger.

    2. Lyra

      Yep. That’s it. On most crimes, I’d agree with your initial comment. Anything relating to kids…I’d have no regrets.

      Honestly, I think the women who could/can find forgiveness for these criminals, these types of crimes, are far more evolved and something…I can’t think of the word…good? generous? better suited to lead the human race?, than I. But in those cases, I’d be numb as a sociopath.

    3. Teri

      Only one day of reflection, and no I still couldn’t do it. Shoot. It’s easy to talk all brave when there’s no reality happening to force my hand. I don’t have it in me. And I’d venture that most humans don’t have it in them either.

  7. catherine

    These crimes really turn my stomach. Today in Italy there is a hearing for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, to see whether the evidence against them holds up. It has been a huge case here, and full of newspaper diatribe and high emotion. I no longer know what to believe as police, witnesses and forensic officers have been unreliable or lax all over the world, and yet a complicated crime was committed that it must be possible to resolve.

    What remains is that a beautiful young woman’s life was taken in a shocking manner, her parents will never find peace nor see her again, and I can’t understand why they can’t get to the bottom of it.

  8. Downith

    It’s all too horrible and sad. I’m against the death penalty too, but all of the examples above and so many others – Canada’s infamous Paul Bernardo – give me pause…

    And no, I wouldn’t watch.

  9. Bobbi

    As a non American this execution business really baffles me. The same day in Texas a psychopathic white supremacist was also executed. To me whether there’s doubt or not about innocence makes no difference. No country can call itself great when there is punishment such as this.

    1. Teri

      Certainly it’s no coincidence that U.S. states with the highest percentage of executions score the lowest in education. Is that right?

  10. Charles

    I do know that the two states with the MOST executions–California and Florida–are also the two states with Disneylands. 🙂

    Also (and I believe these stats are still correct), we are fifth, globally, for most executions. Who beats us? China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen. I would argue these aren’t nation-states that the U.S. views as great models of humanism and democracy, and yet there we are.

    1. Teri

      An overload of executions and Disneyland, all in one spot. Sounds like the way many non-Americans see us, no? One great big Las Vegas.

      Loved this Megan Martin review of AMERICAN WEATHER. Hope all’s well with you. I assume you’re back in Illinois and teaching.

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