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By Kuba Shand-Baptiste on 12.10.2023

The Execution Of Troy Davis

Death is an acceptable form of punishment in 34 states within the US. A finite reprimand supposedly enforced to prevent dangerous threats to society from re-entering it. As such, it must not be handled with insensitivity, nor assigned – if at all, freely. Unfortunately however, such precautions are occasionally neglected, resulting in the unfair trials and deaths of people like Troy Anthony Davis, who was charged with the murder of police officer Mark Macphail over twenty years ago.

At the time of his conviction, Davis’ prosecution was supported by the statements of nine crucial witnesses (seven of which testified that they had seen Davis committing the crime, and two of which claimed that he had confessed to them directly). As the case developed however, it became clear that the merit of these statements had dwindled significantly, as seven of the nine witnesses recanted their claims, some implicating another man as the perpetrator of the crime. As well as this, the murder weapon had never been recovered, nor had there ever been any DNA evidence in support of the conviction of Davis.

Still, despite the lack of evidence and tireless campaigns backed by the likes of his family, Amnesty International, the National Association For The Advancement of Coloured People, and other credible personalities/organisations, the Southern District Court of Georgia failed to grant Davis a rehearing. On the 21st of September, 2011 at 10:53pm EDT, the execution of Troy Davis began. Several minutes later, he was pronounced dead.

Like tens of thousands of people worldwide, I watched ‘Democracy Now!’s’ live stream covering the event from just outside the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison. I watched as guest speakers struggled to summarize the fate of a presumably innocent man through held back tears. I watched as Troy Davis’ family watched on, solemn in the knowledge that with every passing minute leading up to Troy’s scheduled execution, the chances of sparing his life were growing increasingly thin.

It was chilling.

And not just because of the unjust trial and execution of one man, but because of the working unabashed, dangerous and rigid judicial system in the southern states in America, which doesn’t seem to have changed all that dramatically in over 60 years. Davis’s lawyer deemed the execution a “legalised lynching”, a phrase which, although seemingly severe, is sadly fitting in this particular case.

This trial took place in a state in which, (as stated by Troy Davis’ Lawyer, Thomas Ruffin) black males make up 15% of the population, yet “fill almost half the cells on its death row”. Under a judicial system which a little over eight years ago allowed for a “jury shuffle”, during the case of Miller-El vs. Dretke, in an attempt to prevent ten of the eleven prospective African American jury members from being chosen to serve. In a nation in which the murder rate of white citizens and black citizens is practically on par, but the chances of receiving capital punishment for murder is six times more likely if the defendant is black.

Considering the plethora of evidence in support of Davis’ innocence, as well as the location in which the trial took place (the name Georgia itself rings true of Southern America’s acrimonious past), these circumstances must not be seen as anything less than a great injustice. And I feel that the most useful course of action for us as a people, should be to take note from Troy Davis himself, who wrote in a letter to his supporters not long before his execution date: “There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me, but through our strength to move forward”.

Comments

  • Good summary piece of such a tragic incident. Davis’ should have had the constiutional right to a “fair trial”, however it seems he only got the trial, not the fairness part. America continues to be corrupted from the inside and it worries me greatly.

    By Anonymous on 14.10.2023

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  • This article was well articulated and touches the very essence of racial bias that exist today in the USA and other first world countries. Well written Kuba

    By Dave Lemard on 14.10.2023

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  • An insightful article.

    By Lucy on 13.10.2023

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  • Well written and very enlightening Kuba, thanks for the information.

    By Anonymous on 13.10.2023

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