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Good Reads: World reacts to Troy Davis execution with vigils, debates

The hope expressed at late-night vigils from Paris to Hong Kong turned to revulsion as the US state of Georgia carried out its execution of Troy Davis.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / September 22, 2011

A demonstration at the Place de La Concorde in Paris, France on Sept. 21 for Troy Davis, who was executed in the United States Wednesday in a case that has brought strong international opposition. The Paris square was the site of beheadings during the French Revolution.

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Events in the United States seem to be dominating global headlines, between the execution of Troy Davis and world leaders in New York debating whether to support a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN.

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Debates filled the world’s editorial pages over whether the death penalty is effective at deterring crime, administered fairly, used more often against blacks than whites, and whether it is morally sound in a nation that champions human rights on a global stage. Symbolic protests were held from Hong Kong to the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

But in the end, Troy Davis – who was convicted in the shooting death of a Georgia cop, Mark MacPhail – was put to death by lethal injection. The BBC was one of the few news organizations that mentioned in its Troy Davis coverage that another man, Lawrence Russell Brewer, an admitted white racist, was also executed last night – in the state of Texas – for the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr., a black man.

The death penalty may still enjoy support in the US, but much of the world’s media reflected global revulsion for the US’s justice system. In Britain’s left-leaning newspaper, the Guardian, Ed Pilkington writes that the debate over the death penalty “will continue long after the gurney has been put away.”

In the final gruesome hours of waiting, the American judicial system at its very highest echelons was involved – including the US supreme court, which issued the decisive final ruling. The decision to press ahead with the death sentence despite serious doubts over Davis's guilt drew accusations that this was the system at its most grotesque.

The Daily Telegraph, a more conservative British newspaper, gathered up comments from around the world on both sides of the issue. Supporters of the death penalty argued that justice was served, and that Davis enjoyed plenty of chances to exonerate himself. Others expressed horror, noting that several witnesses had recanted their testimony.

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