Troy Davis to be executed.

VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: Within moments of my posting this, I learned that Amnesty hasn’t given up yet — because they’re Amnesty and they don’t give up. Here’s the petition to sign, demanding that Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm “seek a withdrawal of the death warrant and support clemency himself” (last week, I asked you to sign a petition to the same effect — please sign this one, too). If you don’t manage to sign right away, please try again. And/or call or fax the Chatham County’s District Attorney’s office – phone: 912-652-7308 / fax: 912-652-7328.

I’m also going to be making a donation to Amnesty today — if you can do likewise, I urge you to do so. They are doing God’s own work here on earth.


I’m beside myself, so full of shame of my country and my countrymen. That people engaged in the administration of justice, entrusted with upholding our laws and protecting our lives, could allow the death sentence to go forward in a case that is so thoroughly riddled with doubt is beyond me.

I feel such ache and horror for Mr. Davis’s family, and find I am suddenly glad that his mother died last spring, of a broken heart her daughters believe, because at least she won’t actually see her boy killed. I thought of this as I sent my boy to school today: Troy Davis was once a boy, on his way to school. And tomorrow, at 7:00 pm EST, he, too, will be a murder victim — only the murderers will be the people meant to protect him.

I am ashamed, ashamed, ashamed. What is wrong with this country? What is wrong with us? As Andrew Cohen, chief legal analyst and legal editor for CBS News wrote in The Atlantic yesterday:

Whether the trial witnesses against him were lying then or are lying now, by fighting against his requested relief Georgia is saying that its interest in the finality of its capital judgments is more important than the accuracy of its capital verdicts.

Here’s The Guardian’s report on the decision:

Georgia’s pardons board has rejected clemency for death row inmate Troy Davis, who has attracted high-profile support for his claim that he was wrongly convicted of killing a police officer in 1989.

According to his defence lawyers, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday rejected Davis’s request for clemency after hearing hours of testimony from his supporters and prosecutors.

“I am utterly shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice,” Brian Kammer, one of Davis’s attorneys, said after the decision was announced.

Davis is set to die on Wednesday for the murder of off-duty Savannah officer Mark MacPhail, who was killed while rushing to help a homeless man who was being attacked. It is the fourth time in four years his execution has been scheduled by Georgia officials.

Davis was convicted at a 1991 trial almost exclusively on the basis of nine witnesses who all said they had seen him carry out the shooting. Davis was present at the scene, but has always insisted that another man, Sylvester Coles, attacked the homeless man and shot MacPhail when he intervened.

The murder weapon was never found, and there was no DNA or other forensic evidence.

In the years since the trial, seven of the nine witnesses have come forward and recanted their evidence, saying they were put under pressure to implicate Davis by the investigating police. Other witnesses have come forward to say they had heard Coles confess to killing the officer.

The parole board heard from one of the jurors who originally recommended the death penalty for Davis. Brenda Forrest told the panel she no longer trusted the verdict or sentence: “I feel, emphatically, that Mr Davis cannot be executed under these circumstances,” she said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The board also heard from Quiana Glover, who testified she had heard Coles confess in June 2009 to having been the killer, at a party where he had been drinking heavily.

Following the arguments for clemency, members of MacPhail’s family and
the prosecution side were expected to call for the execution to go ahead.

Brian Evans, a death row specialist at Amnesty International’s US branch, said the extraordinary outpouring of support for Davis was partly of a reflection of changing attitudes in America towards executions.

Opinion polls suggest the US has softened its view from its once-hardline, pro-capital punishment position, and is now fairly evenly divided between defenders of the death penalty and those who see life without parole as a satisfactory alternative.

Last week, I wrote in The Atlantic that if the clemency bid failed, I would tell my daughter that we could at least know that when Troy Davis goes to his death, he will do so in the knowledge that he is being held by thousands upon thousands of loving hands. Hundreds of thousands of loving hands. I have no way of ever knowing if that will ease his passing, but I have to believe it is so.

Please send your thoughts to him tomorrow, at 7:00 pm EST. Please pray that his passing will be easy.



  1. Mark A

     /  September 20, 2011

    That would be political suicide for Chisholm. He has gotten through this matter fairly unscathed. It was his predecessor who brought the death penalty against Davis. If Chisholm were to put the hat on himself by unilaterally commuting the death sentence, he would agitate at least half of the electorate to turn against him. And the remainder would not give him proper credit for saving Davis. In local politics, friends come and go but enemies accumulate. It would be far better for Chisholm to just sit this one out.

    Anyway, Chisholm is a PROSECUTOR. Prosecutors think that everyone is guilty. You might have a presumption of innocence when you go before a judge, but never with a prosecutor. In addition to it being their job to put people awawy (or to death), most prosecutors want to be judges. You don’t get to be a judge through a brazen maneuver like unilaterally commuting a death sentence.

    Prosecutors sometimes withdraw death proceedings before the jury is charged to deliberate, but I can’t think of a case where the death sentence was withdrawn after the jury acted.

  2. Done, Thank you, Emily.

  3. I don’t have words. Not even shame. Just a sense that something is so very, very wrong.

  4. I just wrote a post on my blog, because I don’t know what else to do. I’ve signed this petition and many others. I’ve written. I’ve implored. I’ve exhorted. I’ve prayed. I cannot believe that we as a modern society will fall once more upon the Medievalism of execution. I do not know how we will expatiate this sin of commission.

  5. Just got the following in my inbox. I don’t know if I want to watch, but other readers may be interested:

    “Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman will host a live broadcast on Wednesday evening, September 21, from 6-8pm EDT from outside the prison in Jackson, GA, where Troy Anthony Davis is scheduled to be executed at 7pm EDT.

    Davis was convicted in 1989 of killing of off-duty white police officer, Mark MacPhail. Since then, seven of the nine non-police witnesses who fingered Davis have recanted their testimony, and there is no physical evidence that ties Davis to the crime scene.

    Video of the special broadcast will be live-streamed from 6pm to 8pm EDT at

    The special can also be watched on Free Speech TV (Channel 9415 on DISH Network and Channel 348 on DirectTV).”

  6. Someone else quoted Auden’s “September 1, 1939”. I especially like the last stanza

    Defenseless under the night
    Our world in stupor lies;
    Yet, dotted everywhere,
    Ironic points of light
    Flash out wherever the Just
    Exchange their messages:
    May I, composed like them
    Of Eros and of dust,
    Beleaguered by the same
    Negation and despair,
    Show an affirming flame