“A verdict that is not ironclad is not good enough to support the death penalty.”

UPDATE: If you are a legal professional or member of the clergy, please click here to read an important update.

Let me get this out of the way: I am opposed to the death penalty under any circumstances. I think that Adolf Eichmann should have been allowed to rot in prison. I don’t think that killing people helps society in any way, if it’s not absolutely necessary for reasons of defense, and I don’t believe that the death penalty acts as any kind of deterrent.

And yet, I do understand the impulse behind the death penalty. Some people really have done monstrous things, and I can understand the desperate feeling that such monsters produce in our hearts, the horror, the sense that monsters do not deserve to live.

But at the very least, should we not be absolutely certain that the person about to be executed is, in fact, a monster? Did, in fact, do what we’re killing that person for doing?

Twenty years ago, Troy Davis was convicted of murdering Mark MacPhail, a police officer in Savannah, Georgia. There is no physical evidence tying Mr. Davis to Officer MacPhail’s murder, and seven of the nine non-law enforcement witnesses have recanted, saying, time and again, that they were frightened and coerced by police, and that moreover, they were terrified by the man they believe to have actually committed the crime. Mr. Davis has himself always maintained his innocence, and jurors have said, flat out: “If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row.”

In spite of all of this, and much more, Mr. Davis remains on death row. He has already lived through execution dates (once coming within an hour or so of death — stop and imagine that for a minute) only to win a stay each time — but a stay of execution is procedural. Mr. Davis is still in danger of being killed for a crime that, at the very least, it is entirely possibly that he did not commit — and he will likely be given a new execution date in September.

If you have 73 seconds to spare, please watch the following video, made by my friend Jen Marlowe, who has done holy work in bringing Mr. Davis’s case to the public eye for years (if you have a bit more time, you can watch the series of four videos in which the shorter clip’s themes are fleshed out and more details provided). Please, please: Sign the Amnesty petition — Amnesty has wisely taken no stand on Mr. Davis’s guilt or innocence, maintaining only that in a case this riddled with doubt, no one should be put to death.

There is one chance remaining for Mr. Davis: The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles. The Parole Board can consider information that the court system cannot, and exercise clemency. In the words of Prof. Anne Emanuel, a death penalty expert at Georgia State University:

Because I find this conviction and this sentence so troubling, what I would like to see the Parole Board do is not only exercise the power of clemency to set aside the death penalty — I think that is an absolute moral and legal necessity in this case, if for no other reason than it is so terribly unfair to the jurors themselves who allowed this death penalty to proceed when the evidence on which they relied has now been disproved and some of it withdrawn by the state itself…. A verdict that is not ironclad is not good enough to support the death penalty.

Please do these two small things — watch the following video, and click here to sign the petition — and then do one more thing: Tell someone else.

Simply put, there is nothing on earth that justifies putting Troy Davis to death. Please do what you can to save his life.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.


  1. caoil

     /  August 29, 2011

    Dutifully signed, E!

  2. So I have to tell you that I signed the petition. A man’s life is at stake.

  3. taylor16

     /  August 29, 2011

    Done, Emily. I’ve read a lot about his case before and have signed earlier petitions. I have to admit, I’m worried that the state may not be willing to listen this time. It’s heartbreaking. 😦

    • Thank you! I have to say, the injustice is so blatant, so gross, so obvious to the naked eye, that something in me just can’t believe that they’ll actually kill him… I just, like, what’s next Georgia? You knock on the door of the local math teacher and kill him? What about the lady at the supermarket? Maybe her? I’m going to keep pushing this with the assumption that I’m wrong, but there is something very solid in my brain around which my thinking can’t move. It just… How could we even be at this point? How is that even possible?

    for Troy Davis

    Innocent eyes
    The clearest of skies,
    Though clouded by contempt,
    Incite us to see
    The blind tyranny
    Of terror in suspense—
    The scales of justice weighted
    By the jaded sway of lies,
    A life held in the balance
    And a cradled compromise;
    Yet hope kneels at her altar
    ‘Til the day he is set free,
    And empathetic hearts cry out,
    “I am Troy, and Troy is me!”

    Roxanne Ivey
    Poets for Positive Change

  5. Tom Glick

     /  September 10, 2011

    The greater the outcry against this state-sanctioned murder, the more likely this man will die. Liberal, thoughtful people must learn that their opponents are not rational, not humane, and not intelligent. They will execute this man and many others out of spite, out of the age-old mob love of spilling blood and violent spectacle. Pointing out errors in the judicial process will only serve to irritate death-penalty supporters. If they were capable of rational, humane thinking they would never support the death penalty in the first place, they would be with us.

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