Our show last night was one of anticipation, as we waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to give the state of Georgia a pass to kill an inmate whose murder conviction was plagued by doubt and a remarkable lack of evidence. Early in the show, Rachel spoke to Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick about the case.
Prior to her appearance, Ms. Lithwick reflected on what Troy Davis means for the future of capital punishment:
Whatever else it may come to mean, the execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia can stand for the proposition that the death penalty in America is finally dying. That's because the fight over the death penalty is now happening in public, at the grassroots, and with reason triumphing over emotion. In the debate over capital punishment, the desire for certainty is finally beginning to carry as much weight as the need for finality. Americans are asking not so much whether this particular prisoner should be killed as whether this whole capital system is fair.
One of the more notable advocates against Mr. Davis' execution agrees:
Former President Jimmy Carter said in a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday he hopes Davis' execution "will spur us as a nation toward the total rejection of capital punishment.""If one of our fellow citizens can be executed with so much doubt surrounding his guilt, then the death penalty system in our country is unjust and outdated," Carter said.
For all of the systemic flaws that have been revealed in the past decade or so -- for all of the innocent people who have been freed after years of incarceration -- the basic eye-for-an-eye nature of the death penalty remains compelling for most Americans, a sentiment reinforced by the occasional horrific crime.
Rachel, talking with our own Ed Schultz as the execution was happening, discussed the political future of the death penalty, taking into consideration conservative arguments against "big government":
The power of a government to kill its citizens is a power that comes vested in a real faith in the state's power to do that well, to do that infallibly. . . . I think the chaos, again, around the Troy Davis case and the doubts that are raised about whether justice was followed here, I should say, I think raise real questions for Americans left, right and center about whether or not we trust state governments to be 100 percent right on something they can't take back. You can't take back killing a person.
The full segment is worth a watch, and it is embedded after the jump.