We are all Troy Davis
On September 21, the state of Georgia executed Troy Davis. State officials, local courts and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court turned their backs on the fact that there was no evidence linking Troy to the crime. Tens of thousands turned out to protest in the days and weeks before his execution, and afterward. The issued this statement in response to Troy's murder.
THE CAMPAIGN to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) is deeply horrified and grief-stricken at the murder of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia on September 21, 2011, at 11:08 p.m.--despite a worldwide movement of unprecedented numbers of people calling for a halt to the execution.
We are left asking how it could be that seven of nine witnesses can recant and change their testimonies from Troy's trial, yet the courts still refused to grant him any relief. There was no physical evidence tying Troy to the 1989 shooting of Savannah, Georgia, police officer Mark Allen MacPhail--no DNA evidence, no murder weapon, no fingerprints. He was convicted based solely on the testimony of these witnesses.
How could it be that Troy was found guilty based on the testimony of these witnesses, yet they had no credibility when they later came forward to say that the police coerced and even threatened them into saying that Troy was guilty?
Troy spent 22 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit. We strongly believe that Troy was innocent. As he maintained during his final words in the execution chamber, "I'd like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I'm not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother, I am innocent."
We are appalled and disgusted that the parole board, the courts in Georgia and the U.S. Supreme Court all denied Troy the relief that he so clearly deserved.
But we are not surprised--we have learned the hard way that innocence does not matter within our justice system. The U.S. Supreme Court itself has stated that innocence is not enough when seeking relief from the courts in death penalty cases.
Barring the court system--could anyone else have stepped in for Troy? President Barack Obama declined to speak on the case, stating through his press secretary Jay Carney that he "has worked to ensure accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system" and that "it was not appropriate for the president of the United States to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution."
We disagree. The president is one of the most powerful people in the world--he has the authority to force change within the criminal justice system. He should have something to say when a state is about to execute an innocent person.
Even with all the evidence of his innocence, Troy was called a criminal, strapped down to a gurney, where he waited for hours while the courts deliberated--and then he was finally killed.
We recognize that this gruesome act is not an unusual occurrence in a system of capital punishment that does not care about the racism and bias against the poor, which is endemic in it. We know that the people who maintain the system of capital punishment are so desperate to keep it that they aren't willing to admit when they have made a mistake.
TROY'S CASE may not be unique in this sense--but in another way, it is different than the vast majority of executions that have happened over the years. Troy's case generated the biggest outpouring of solidarity, support and activism witnessed against a death penalty case in modern times.
Truly, the whole world was watching Georgia these last few days. As Martina Correia, Troy's sister and champion, put it, "Troy Davis has impacted the world. They say 'I am Troy Davis' in languages he can't speak."
From the close to 1 million petition signatures sent to the Georgia Parole Board to spare Troy's life, to the many thousands of people who joined Facebook pages and tweeted for Troy, to the thousands who demonstrated all over the world over the last week--the scale of activism for Troy was something many of us in the abolition movement have never witnessed before.
Last week, members of the CEDP traveled to Atlanta, where we participated in a march and rally for Troy. Over 3,000 others rallied to demand that the execution be stopped.
Campaign member and former prisoner Mark Clements gave a heartfelt speech on behalf of Troy. "I spent 28 year in prison for a crime that I did not commit. I know how Davis is feeling--he's scared, and that's why I am here, because I know how he feels. I feel his pain. I have witnessed men facing execution and they are scared," Clements told the crowd.
Fighting hard to control his emotions, he went on to state, "the NEW JIM CROW is about people like Troy, confined inside of prisons for crimes they never committed, and they need us! We the people to help them like never before."
There were rallies all over the world for Troy on Wednesday evening. Outside the Jackson prison, waiting to hear whether Troy would live or die, hundreds of people gathered and chanted "You say death row, we say HELL NO!"
That is the spirit we have to go forward with now. The fight is not over, despite the worst of the worst taking place last night. It was Troy's last wish that his family and friends continue to fight even after his death.
As Troy told his supporters in a letter:
There are so many more Troy Davises. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me, but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city, state by state, and country by country.
Troy Davis, who contributed so much to our movement and to the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, will be sorely missed and deeply grieved.
In a touching moment yesterday, Troy's sister Martina, who is battling cancer, stood up out of her wheelchair with help from those around her, saying, "I'm going to stand here for my brother."
In honor of Troy Davis and his family, we will continue stand up and build the struggle against the death penalty and the whole INjustice system!