Troy Davis’s statement to supporters.

Posted on Amnesty International’s Facebook page yesterday:

The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me. I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.

A circle of prayer for Troy Davis—and the country that would kill him.

Please read this post at Colorlines by my friend Jen Marlowe, about her friend, Troy Davis. Jen made Amnesty’s series of videos about Mr. Davis, and has been active on his behalf for years.

Troy Davis with family members before the State of Georgia ended "contact visits" for death row inmates.

A Circle of Prayer for Troy Davis—and the Country That Would Kill Him

Motivational posters line the hallways en route to the visitation room. Images of rock climbers, an eagle soaring over clouds, a collection of hands of all pigmentation on a basketball, each with an inspirational one-word message: LEADERSHIP, OPPORTUNITY, ACHIEVEMENT, FOCUS, TEAMWORK.

Opportunity? Achievement? The irony was outrageous. The hallway was in the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison and I was walking down it with the Davis family en route to visit death row inmate Troy Davis.

Though I had been corresponding with Troy for years via letters and phone, December 2009 was my first visit. I knew I would not have the opportunity to be sitting in the same room as Troy; contact visits had been taken away from death row inmates a few months earlier. Instead, I spoke to Troy through a black iron grate, alongside his mother, sisters and teen-aged nephew. At the end of every visit, the Davis family formed a prayer circle, holding hands, Troy leading a prayer thanking God for their blessings and praying for the strength to continue their quest for justice.

With contact visits revoked, Troy could no longer hold hands with the rest of his family. Instead, he pressed his hands flat against the black iron grating. His family and I formed a semi-circle. Troy’s mother pressed her hand on the opposite side of the grate as Troy’s right palm, and his nephew did the same on the left. Everyone bowed their heads, closed their eyes and offered prayers. I couldn’t help but take a peek. Troy looked like a silhouette through the dense iron grill, his head bowed, his hands pressed against the grate, with his mother and nephew’s hands pressed just as firmly on the other side, finding a way, despite the steel and bars, to maintain their circle of prayer.

Please click here to read the rest. And please keep Mr. Davis in your thoughts today, especially at 7:00 pm EST, when he is scheduled to be executed.

My fax to Larry Chisolm, Chatham County District Attorney re: Troy Davis.

Larry Chisolm, Chatham County District Attorney

The latest on Troy Davis:

Earlier this evening, a commenter on my new piece at TheAtlantic.com called my attention to the fact that the Chatham County District Attorney’s office had just issued a press release saying the the Georgia state Superior Court, not the district attorney’s office, is the only body with jurisdiction in the execution and that “this matter is beyond our control.”

This frankly stank to me of the DA trying to duck the responsibility and political mess that this case entails, so I called my source within the campaign for clemency and had it confirmed: Larry Chisolm is trying to evade what is certainly going to be a terrible shitstorm, no matter what he does. But he still has the authority to ask that the Superior Court withdraw the death warrant against Davis, whether he wants to admit it or not.

And so, after not being able to get through to his office all day by phone, I wrote up a fax which I am now trying to send (oddly enough, the DA’s fax line is also very very busy!). Following is what I wrote – feel free to use it was a template, but make sure to make the letter your own — and also make sure to not focus on the question of Davis’s innocence, but rather on the enormous holes in the case (you’ll note that I even went so far as to bold, underline and slightly enlarge that line in my letter).

One last note: The article which reports the press release also reports that “Sister Jackie Griffith with Savannah for Clemency for Troy Davis, announced Tuesday evening her group would deliver 240,000 signatures on a petition to Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm.” That is not meaningless.

District Attorney Larry Chisolm
Chatham County District Attorney’s office
Fax: 912-652-7328

September 20, 2011

Dear District Attorney Chisolm,

I write to you tonight regarding the case of Troy Davis. I am not a resident of Georgia, but I am an American, and this case reflects on our national justice system no less than on that of Georgia.

To be perfectly frank, I’m not concerned for the moment with guilt or innocence, but with evidence and reasonable doubt.

I understand that many within the Georgia court system have found that Davis is not innocent of the horrifying murder of Officer MacPhail 22 years ago.

And yet it cannot be denied that the case against Davis has largely fallen apart over the years, from witness recantation to evidence of police coercion, from a lack of physical evidence to the sheer weight of legal authorities who have themselves said that the case is too slim to support the death penalty.

I am not suggesting that the State of Georgia set Davis free – I am asking that you commute his sentence to life in prison.

If Georgia’s courts are right, Officer MacPhail’s murderer will have spent his life behind bars. But if they are wrong, they will have been spared the stain of killing an innocent man.

America is too big, too great, to have no room for questions. This case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt – if Troy Davis is executed regardless, it will diminish us all.

Please ask the Superior Court, in whose hands I know rests the final authority, to have the death warrant against Troy Davis withdrawn.

Sincerely,

In The Atlantic again: Troy Davis and the reality of doubt.

I am proud to say that I have placed another essay about Troy Davis in TheAtlantic.com, where it will hopefully reach more eyes and do more good. I’m beside myself, and all I can do is write. “All I have is a voice/To undo the folded lie… No one exists alone;/Hunger allows no choice/To the citizen or the police;/We must love one another or die.”

Again, here’s the top – please click through to read the rest, and give The Atlantic the love it really, really deserves.

“Whether the trial witnesses against [Troy Davis] 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.”

Andrew Cohen, who has served as chief legal analyst and legal editor for CBS News, wrote those words regarding death row inmate Troy Davis on TheAtlantic.com yesterday. They come near the end of a vitally important essay in which Cohen spells out “how far we have to go toward fair and accurate capital punishment in America.” I read them over and over, because as a person who has been advocating for Davis’s clemency bid, they struck me as frighteningly true.

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 Change.org 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.

Very brief Troy Davis update.

The clemency hearing is underway, apparently very much as we speak — from the Savannah Morning News:

The Board of Pardons and Paroles began hearing from attorneys and family members of condemned murderer Troy Davis at 9 a.m. Monday as about 60 protesters demonstrated outside the building.

The five-member board is the last hope for Davis and his supporters since multiple appeals have exhausted his legal options. The board, though, isn’t bound by the precedent or the procedures of the courts and can base its decision on whatever it chooses.

[O]n the fifth floor of a nondescript state office building behind them, the parole board devotes hours to hearing Davis’ lawyers, a box of Kleenex sitting on a bench nearby. The defense team prepared for a multimedia defense, beginning with a side reading “If Only We Could Rewind the Tape: The limitations and Distortions of Eyewitness Testimony.”

Even though the board has denied past clemency appeals for Davis, three of the five members have joined the board since the last one.

The board meets behind closed doors, only allowing journalists into the room before the meeting long enough for photos. It holds separate meetings with prosecutors and victims’ families and doesn’t disclose when to prevent reporters from staking out the room to snag interviews as they leave.

Typically, the appointments with each side lasts two to three hours. The board will issue its decision by press release, declining interview requests and usually offering no explanation.

The decision could come today or Tuesday, but it could come as late as moments before the 7 p.m. schedule for Davis to receive a lethal injection.

I think that last sentence may yet do my head in. Please God, please God, let them see and see quickly that there is just too much doubt to kill this man!

For the rest of the Savannah Morning News piece and video of protesters outside the building, click here.

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