After so much attention paid to the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia on September 21st, 2011, I thought it necessary to remember someone else who was executed on the same day in Texas. Lawrence Brewer’s execution passed with little or no fanfare, as the eyes of the world were focused on Georgia. Brewer was convicted for the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr., a black man from Texas. Byrd was brutally beaten and dragged from the back of a pickup truck by Brewer, along with John William King, also on death row, and Shawn Berry, given life without parole.
The guilt of these men is not under question in what is one of the worst hate crimes in recent history, and the men were openly involved in white supremacist groups. However, it is important to remember that for even the most heinous of crimes to which there is overwhelming proof of guilt, the death penalty remains unjust, wildly expensive, and a reaction of vengeance, not of justice. As human beings, our natural inclination is that of revenge. We desire to see those that hurt us or hurt those closest to us to have pain inflicted back upon them. We imagine in our own minds that taking the life of a criminal who has taken innocent life will somehow balance the scales. These emotions, while common and natural, are not things we should desire in our legal system. The law is meant to supersede our fickle, volatile human responses to things that upset us. It is meant to use rationality and reason, not an animal desire to inflict pain on others.
So while I am revolted by the actions of Lawrence Brewer, I do not celebrate his death. I do not see that the scale of justice has been balanced by his death, rather, it has been tipped even further. As a nation that proclaims itself to be a pillar of human rights and a guiding light to other nations on the way justice should be carried out, it is time that we abolish the death penalty in this country, as every European nation has already done, and as countries around the world have done.