at 11:08 pm wednesday, the state of georgia executed troy anthony davis by lethal injection. about 500 peaceful protesters, 95% of whom were black, respectfully gathered in front of the jackson state prison in jackson, georgia. the diverse crowd included children, elderly folk & pregnant women. some of them proudly wore i am troy davis t-shirts. for hours upon hours they shouted, 'spare this man's life.'
according to historian & author william jelani cobb, "when word came that the supreme court was stepping in, there was elation. but we just sank when we learned that there wasn't going to be any change in his fate. people quietly gave in. as davis was in the process of dying, some prayed. some people fell out on the grass. others were talking about what we should do next. it was a roller coaster."
davis was originally scheduled to be executed at 7:00 pm. the u.s. supreme court, opting not to address this case previously, weighed in for over three hours before ultimately refusing his attorney's appeal. davis, a black man, was convicted in 1991 of shooting & killing mark mcphail, a white, male off-duty police officer in savannah, georgia in 1989.
no physical evidence was provided by the prosecution. no murder weapon was found. seven of the nine eyewitness recanted their testimony; many citing law enforcement coercion, stress & fear of reprisal. some said the police made them lie. one witness signed a police statement indicting davis - yet he was illiterate. some said the person, sylvester coles, who reported davis to the police, actually shot the police officer.
just before his controversial execution, davis humbly maintained his innocence. he urged people to dig deeper into the provocative case for the truth. when asked for his final words davis said, "for those about to take my life, may god have mercy on your souls, may god bless your souls."
historically, within every facet of the american criminal justice system, people of african ancestry have experienced financial shortcomings, inadequate legal representation, media apathy, racial discrimination & social inequality. marcus garvey once said, "people who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it." richard pryor once said, "there is no justice for black people...there's just us."
some people felt u.s. president barack obama should speak to a case of this magnitude. obama is the most powerful black man in america. his attorney general, eric holder, is black. legally, the president lacks the authority to intervene in state convictions. but the justice department could investigate claims davis' civil rights were violated in his trial.
often when folks have been mistreated legally &/or wrongly convicted they have an opportunity to correct the injustice. you can sue the police. you can be granted a new trial. you can be released from prison. you can be given compensation. you can, at the very least, continue to exhaust the legal system of all its resources to amend the wrongs against you.
but there is no legal way to correct a death sentence. once convicted, the burden of innocence falls squarely on the shoulder of the convicted individual. if davis was serving a sentence of life in prison without parole, he could continue to press the legal system to grant him a fair trial - but because of the death penalty, he does not have that opportunity.
troy davis' case has ignited national discourse around the viability of the death penalty. many people feel strongly one way or the other on moral grounds. however, the many questions of doubt against davis were so uncertain in this case it left a bad taste with people who are staunchly pro-death penalty. furthermore, in a system which routinely misidentifies black suspects & disproportionately punishes black people, the cultural oppression of african people continues.
since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row because they were wrongly convicted. the movement to add davis to this list was strong from the outset. the georgia board of pardons & parole received hundreds of phone calls to help delay davis' execution twice. over a million people signed petitions & others raised money to run ads on georgia radio stations calling for justice.
amnesty international, colorofchange.org, naacp, national action network & other activists, community-based organizations & progressive people fought valiantly to save davis' life. prayer vigils were held around the world from portland, oregon to paris, france. despite his inevitable fate, davis felt the case was bigger than him.
some of the prominent people across the political spectrum who spoke out included archbishop desmond tutu, former georgia republican congressman bob barr, hip hop group outkast member big boi, former u.s. president jimmy carter, members of the congressional black caucus, former georgia supreme court justice norman fletcher, pope benedict xvi & former fbi director william sessons.
long live the spirit of troy anthony davis!!!
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.