Troy Davis and Lawrence Brewer were executed Wednesday night. And the nation's reaction couldn't be more divided.
Davis used his dying breath to insist he was not responsible for killing Mark MacPhail, an off-duty Savannah, Ga., police officer gunned down in 1989 while coming to the aid of a homeless man. "I personally did not kill your son, father and brother," he told the victim's family as he was strapped to a gurney in a Georgia prison in preparation for the lethal injection. "I am innocent."
Doubt about Davis' guilt had been raised after key witnesses recanted their testimony. Death penalty opponents around the world closely followed the case as it made its way through the courts, including a last-minute attempt for a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court -- and were shocked and saddened when it did not come.
Meanwhile, Brewer, a 44-year-old white supremacist, was also put to death Wednesday night in Texas for the racially motivated 1998 dragging death of a black man.
The brutality of the killing shocked the nation and ultimately led to new state and federal hate crime legislation. The victim, James Byrd Jr., was looking for a ride home when Brewer and two friends turned on him. They drove him down a remote road, beat him, and then chained him to the back of a truck and dragged him for several miles before dumping his decapitated body in front of an African American cemetery.
Brewer also proclaimed his innocence, to a degree, acknowledging a role in the attack but insisting he did not kill Byrd.
The reaction on Twitter to his death was almost gleeful in some corners, seeming to reflect a belief that Brewer got what he deserved. Among the Tweets: "JUSTICE SERVED" and "That dude deserved guns AND electric chairs...hot mess!"
As the news cycle churned, reaction in the Davis case seemed to move on to efforts to overturn the death penalty, with many calling the execution a watershed moment.
But there were also plenty of comments pointing out a perception of hypocrisy in the different reactions to the deaths. Among them:
--"Lawrence Brewer was also executed while claiming his innocence. Said he assaulted the man, but did not kill him. He didn't get any attention"
--"Why no outrage among celebrities over the execution of racist lyncher Lawrence Russell Brewer?...looking at you @AlecBaldwin"
--"Funny that people are calling 'racism' for Troy Davis when Lawrence Russell Brewer was also executed yesterday, for killing a black man."