Jonah Goldberg

On Wednesday, two men were lawfully executed. Both insisted they were innocent. If you've been watching the news or following Kim Kardashian's tweets, you've likely heard of one of these men, Troy Davis.

The other death penalty "victim," Lawrence Russell Brewer, was until this week the more significant convicted murderer. Brewer was one of the racist goons who infamously tied James Byrd to the back of their truck and dragged him to death in Texas.

The case became a touchstone in the 2000 presidential race because then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush had refused to sign a "hate crimes" law. The NAACP ran a reprehensible ad during the presidential election trying to insinuate that Bush somehow shared responsibility for the act.

Regardless, Brewer claimed that he was "innocent" because one of his buddies had cut Byrd's throat before they dragged his body around. Forensic evidence directly contradicted this.

Brewer's own statements didn't help either. Such as, "As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets. ... I'd do it all over again, to tell you the truth."

Brewer, festooned with tattoos depicting KKK symbols and burning crosses, was "not a sympathetic person" in the words of Gloria Rubac of the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement.

Which is why we didn't hear much about him this week. Instead, we heard a great deal about Davis. Many people insist Davis was innocent or that there was "too much doubt" about his guilt to proceed with the execution. Many judges and public officials disagreed, including all nine members of the Supreme Court, who briefly stayed the execution Wednesday night, only to let it proceed hours later.

There are many sincere and decent people -- on both sides of the ideological spectrum -- who are opposed to the death penalty. I consider it an honorable position, even though I disagree with it. I am 100 percent in favor of lawfully executing people who deserve the death penalty and 100 percent opposed to killing people who do not deserve it.

When I say that, many death penalty opponents angrily respond that I'm missing the point. You can never be certain! Troy Davis proves that!

But he proves no such thing. At best, his case proves that you can't be certain about Davis. You most certainly can be certain about other murderers. If the horrible happens and we learn that Davis really was not guilty, that will be a heart-wrenching revelation. It will cast a negative light on the death penalty, on the Georgia criminal justice system and on America.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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