Troy Davis appears to be out of options to avoid his execution, scheduled for 7 p.m. today in Georgia. The state's pardons board denied his request for clemency on Tuesday and prison officials blocked a last-minute attempt to have him take a polygraph test to assert his innocence on Wednesday. But as supporters massed in person and on Twitter to call for a new trial for Davis, who many say was wrongly convicted, the call has been significantly quieter to halt another execution slated for Wednesday: That of Lawrence Brewer, the white supremacist convicted in the Texas dragging death of James Byrd Jr., in 1998. It's far from surprising that fewer people have rushed to the defense of a cruel, racist murderer than to someone seen as convicted unfairly by a prejudiced system.
The situations of the two convicts couldn't be more different: Davis, convicted of the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer, has had his execution scheduled and stayed three times as the evidence in his case gets repeatedly called into question. Witnesses have recanted testimony and the campaign against his death has been active for years. Brewer, on the other hand, participated in one of the most horrific murders of the decade when he and two other men beat Byrd, chained him to the back of a pickup truck, and dragged him several miles to his death. The racially charged murder still casts a pall over Jasper, Texas, where it took place.
As Jamil Smith wrote on the Maddow Blog on Wednesday, "the death penalty is not a fence-sitting issue." Those calling for an end to the practice should defend both Davis's and Brewer's right to live, goes the logic. That's the standpoint of the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which The Nation's Greg Mitchell quoted on Wednesday, saying, "we stand against all executions without reservation." The Brewer case, with its brutality, racism, and Brewer's own lack of remorse, "certainly tests one's principles," Mitchell wrote. But other groups with an ostensibly similar standpoint haven't weighed in on the issue. Amnesty USA, which calls the death penalty "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights," has been heavily promoting its campaign against Davis's execution. The only mention of Brewer on its web site comes on a universal list of scheduled executions. Oddly, one of the few voices calling for Brewer's life to be spared is that of Ross Byrd, the son of his victim. "You can't fight murder with murder," he told Reuters. He said "Life in prison would have been fine."
*Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the town of Huntsville, Texas, as the scene of the Byrd murder. In fact, it was Jasper.