Troy Davis Execution

Friday September 23rd, 2011 – Chicago, IL

The death penalty is always a topic of interesting conversation. People talk about it all the time, and most have a passionate opinion one way or another. I’ve made it a topic on several radio shows, and as morbid as it sounds there are even a lot of humor angles in it.

I know it wouldn’t be nearly as funny if it were me in that position, but that’s how it is with humor – OTHER people’s pain is exploited, and those who don’t feel it can laugh at the one who does. I didn’t make up that formula, it’s hard wired into the human animal.

There are all kinds of old jokes about tragedy and death, and they wouldn’t be old jokes if they didn’t work well enough to keep being passed around. Even the common name of most electric chairs being ‘Old Sparky’ is funny to everyone but the poor sap sitting in it.

I’ve often pictured myself in a comedic way on death row and used to do a bit for years about my last meal. I think everyone thinks about what they’d order, and I always said I’d eat lots of Mexican food and then go to the electric chair so there’d be a mess to clean up.

It always got laughs, but I’ve been reading lately about a case in Georgia that involves a convicted cop killer named Troy Davis who was put to death this week despite many who claimed there was reasonable doubt that he did it. I didn’t find this case very funny at all.

I don’t know if he did it or not, but he maintained his innocence to the bitter end. I’ll bet a lot of people on death row do the same, but unfortunately the sad possibility does exist a few of them are telling the truth. What a horrific feeling it must be to have to endure that.

I came as close as I ever want to come to that years ago when I had to testify against my childhood best friend in a bank robbery trial. I knew in my heart that I didn’t rob the bank but my lawyer told me the authorities thought I did it and were negotiating with him as to how long my prison sentence would be. He said innocent people go to prison all the time.

There was about a six week period of my life when I wasn’t sure if I was going to be one of them or not, and to make it worse I had to keep it to myself and go be funny in comedy clubs every night. It was by far the most miserable time of my life, and I still don’t know how I was able to pull off comedy shows then. There was nothing funny about that time.

I did come to a point in my head when I was going to accept it if I had to do prison time for something I didn’t do. It was difficult not to be both bitter and afraid, and there were a lot of sleepless nights those six weeks but I did my best to prepare myself for the worst.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Troy Davis if he truly was innocent, and it takes a special kind of super human resolve not to totally lose it. What disturbed me the most was that the state of Georgia didn’t listen to the appeals from so many who thought there was a chance he didn’t do it. That just doesn’t seem like justice to me, and I think it should be fair for everyone – even though I know that just isn’t how it is on this planet.


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