A jury had indeed found Davis guilty of murdering a police officer, a heinous offense. But was the jury infallible? Is any human being?
There was no DNA evidence, no physical evidence at all. The verdict was based completely on eyewitness testimony. Some human activities are more fallible than others. How often have you seen someone you thought you knew, only to be shortly proven wrong.
Seven of the nine witnesses recanted their testimony since the verdict. Three jurors have said they would have voted otherwise had they known then what they know now. People from all walks of life, including conservative politicians, a former President, and Pope Benedict spoke out against the imminent execution.
But blind justice proceeded and took its toll tonight. Justice blind, not only to the likely truth, but what it is that most makes us human. It's not vengance but compassion, and a willingness to admit we might be wrong.
There are killers who deserve to die. But we've yet to devise a legal system that can differentiate between people who are in fact monstrous killers, and people who have been wrongly convicted of such crimes. That's why DNA evidence has overturned hundreds of mistaken verdicts.
One thing will always be clear about what happened in Georgia tonight. A man was put to death. And if further evidence now comes to light that shows him not guilty? The state of Georgia will have murdered an innocent man, with the US Supreme Court's permission.
And we like to call ourselves civilized.