In 1994, Justice Harry Blackmun famously announced his opposition to the death penalty: “From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.” It cannot be administered fairly, he said, and “the inevitability of factual, legal, and moral error” ensures that some innocent defendants will be killed.

The circus around Troy Davis’ execution tells me that we are continuing to tinker with the machinery of death. We are diminished as a society as a result.