When the Death Penalty Hits Home

As the Troy Davis case takes over the news, one writer can't help thinking of her cousin on death row.

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Mark MacPhail's family say they're not out for blood, only justice. I simply don't believe in that type of justice. Justice covered in blood is just as wrong as the crime for which it seeks punishment. Those who disagree with me will no doubt shout, "But what about the victim?!" I say that capital punishment creates victims of us all. An eye for an eye just makes everybody blind.

In the last 20 years, I've gotten maybe five letters from Tony, always written in sharp, daggerlike scrawl across each page in impossibly neat diagonal lines. I've written back maybe once or twice. Most years it's easy to forget that my cousin, someone I used to know, is on death row. That during the entirety of my adult life, Tony's been waiting to die. I'm out here living, as is the rest of the free world.

In a letter recently released online, Davis, a man many now believe is innocent, spoke for himself and called for a global dismantling of the death penalty. "I can't wait to stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing, 'I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!' "

Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter. 

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Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.