It took 8 minutes for the lethal injection to kill Troy Davis.
In 1989, nineteen-year-old Troy Davis was accused of shooting Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer. MacPhail was helping a homeless man in a Burger King parking lot when he was shot in the face and the heart. According to court testimony, Davis was said to be a part of the group of two other men that was assaulting the homeless man. Prosecutors also claim that he had was beating the homeless man with a gun for beer. Nine eyewitnesses came forward and provided eyewitness accounts that stated Davis murdered MacPhail. This led to Davis’ first death sentence in 1991. Over the next twenty years, Davis and his supporters have been successful at preventing his execution. Appeals from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Amnesty International, former President Jimmy Carter, fifty one members of Congress and former F.B.I. director, William Sessions along with thousands of people wrote to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for clemency. In 2010, seven out of the nine eyewitnesses recanted their statements and allegations of police coercion have surfaced. Furthermore, there was no gun or DNA evidence that proved without a doubt that Davis was the murderer. Ninety minutes before his execution, the Supreme Court stepped in to review the case, but declined to grant a stay for Davis. Until his death, Davis was defiant about his innocence.
I don’t even know how to articulate my feelings about this. I’m upset, sad, confused, in disbelief and most of all, afraid. The death penalty has been (one of) the reason(s) for the death of innocent people, it has perpetuated injustice and the belief that ‘closure’ and justice can be achieved simply with death. How is it possible that, in this present society, the death penalty is morally permissible and legal?
In another case, Duane Buck, an African American, was scheduled to be killed in Texas. Hours before his death, the Supreme Court granted a stay of execution because a psychologist testified that “Mr. Buck’s race increased the chances of future dangerousness”. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? It is painful how discriminatory the US legal system and death penalty is. What happened to “Freedom and Justice for all”?
I also found this picture online, which is self-explanatory:
And yet, I cannot help but also be frustrated with myself. As a member of my generation, I am ashamed of my habit of being outraged for five minutes and then slipping back into indifference. I admit I was not fully aware of the Troy Davis case until a few days before his death. I lacked a definitive opinion on the death penalty until I took the time to delve into the argument against it. I looked into the Innocence Project, which is, according to their website, “a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice”. So far, it has successfully saved 273 individuals from unfair execution since 1992. Despite the accomplishments of the Innocence Project, I can’t help but think that there must be more or something different that needs to be done to effectively end the use of the death penalty. I clicked on the “What Can I Do?” link on the Innocence Project website. I’m not too surprised. Of course, awareness and staying informed, along with writing to elected representatives and the media are helpful, but the present existence of the death penalty makes me question our power as citizens. I could go on and on about this but it obviously detracts from the main issue of the death penalty.
Until his death, Troy Davis continued to have faith that he would be saved. He told prison personnel: “May God have mercy on your souls; may God bless your souls.” Before his execution, Davis was described as being in good spirits and prayerful.
I wonder what it feels like to be executed for a crime I didn’t commit. I wonder what it feels like to know that, despite the support of nearly 630,000 people, there is a roomful of people that decide I should die, despite a lack of concrete evidence.
I think it is admirable and amazing that Troy Davis maintained a positive attitude towards humanity and had faith that things would change. I hope I can continue that same positivity and hope that one day things will change with our efforts.
Thoughts about what can be done to change the system?
Will the removal of the death penalty be enough?
Keep questioning and take care,