Protesters show their support for death row inmate Troy Davis during a rally at the capitol in Atlanta; over 1000 people attended his funeral today.
Troy Davis was executed on Sept. 21; he maintained his innocence until his death. REUTERS/John Amis

On Wednesday 21 September Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia for the murder of policeman Mark MacPhail after being convicted of the crime in 1991.

Despite serious concerns with the evidence, the state of Georgia carried out the execution and brought Davis' 20 year stay on execution to an end. What the state of Georgia showed was a complete lack of compassion, humanity and acted in revenge, not justice. There is simply no justification for taking somebody's life, be it that of Troy Davis, convicted of a heinous murder oranybody else.

There is simply no statistical evidence to say that introducing a death penalty would deter people from committing crime. A report from the Death Penalty Information Centre shows that those states in the U.S. that have the death penalty have higher rates of homicide.

Murder Rates in States with Death Penalty9.519.697.725.865.825.905.26
Murder Rates in States without Death Penalty8.638.815.374.594.274.223.90
Percentage Difference10104428364035

In September 2000, a New York Times poll found that during the last 20 years, the homicide rates in the states that had the death penalty were between 48 to 101 per cent higher than those states that did not have the death penalty. FBI data from the same year showed that those states without capital punishment in 2008 had homicide rates below the national rate.

What is clear from information from the U.S. is that the threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol or those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime. To try and argue that the death penalty acts as a preventative force is simply untrue by the statistics released.

A study by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock of the University of Colorado found that 88 percent of the nation's leading criminologists did not believe the death penalty was an effective deterrent to crime. The study waspublished in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

"There is overwhelming consensus among America's top criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question fails to support the threat or use of the death penalty. A previous study in 1996 had come to similar conclusions," The study, Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates? The Views of Leading Criminologists concluded.

The study also shows that fewer than 78 percent of those surveyed said that having the death penalty in a state does not lower the murder rate. Public opinion also reflects these findings. In a 2006 Gallup Poll, only 34 percent of respondents agreed that "the death penalty acts as a deterrent to the commitment of murder, that it lowers the murder rate." In 2004, 62 percent of people said the death penalty was not a deterrent. By contrast, in 1985, 62 percent believed the death penalty acted as a deterrent to murder.

What the Troy Davis case shows is a nation or state can't look for revenge in a murder case. The primary aim must be justice, justice for the person murdered as well as the family. Locking a criminal up for the rest of their days is a far greater deterrent that the killing of a human being that may be found to be innocent.

If we look at serious miscarriages of justice, the reality becomes stark. When Barry George was convicted of the murder of Jill Dando in July 2001, if Britain had had the death penalty, Barry George could have been killed and Britain would have that on its hands. Who would have been responsible? Would they have been accountable for the decision made? These areas are grey and we should never look at introducing retribution into our legal system.