'Tonight the State of Georgia killed an innocent man,' writes the NAACP, following the death of Troy Davis on 21 September. 'Troy's execution, the exceptional unfairness of it, will only hasten the end of the death penalty in the United States. The world will remember the name of Troy Anthony Davis. In death he will live on as a symbol of a broken justice system that kills an innocent man while a murderer walks free.'
Tonight the State of Georgia has killed an innocent man.
In recent weeks, we fought hard for the commutation of Troy Davis' sentence. More than one million of your petitions were delivered. Protests, rallies and vigils were organized around the globe. Tonight, we fasted and prayed together as a community.
I have spent the past week with Troy's family. He wanted the world to know that he understood that this struggle goes beyond just one man. Troy was prepared to die tonight. As he said again and again, the state of Georgia only held the power to take his physical body. They could not take his spirit, because he gave his life to God.
Let's remember and heed Troy's words: We must not let them kill our spirit, either.
Troy's execution, the exceptional unfairness of it, will only hasten the end of the death penalty in the United States. The world will remember the name of Troy Anthony Davis. In death he will live on as a symbol of a broken justice system that kills an innocent man while a murderer walks free.
The world will remember Troy's name, as the death penalty supporters who expressed doubt in this case begin to doubt an entire system that can execute a man amidst so many unanswered questions.
The world will remember Troy's name, as death penalty opponents who remained silent in the past realize that their silence is no longer an option.
The world will remember Troy's name because we will commemorate September 21st each year as both a solemn anniversary and a call to action. The night they put Troy Davis to death will become an annual reminder that justice will not be achieved until we end this brutal practice of capital punishment.
"This movement," Troy said, "started before I was born." After tonight, our movement will grow stronger until we succeed in destroying the death penalty in the United States once and for all.
I know you will join me. Together we will secure his legacy, and the world will remember the name Troy Anthony Davis.
* This statement first appeared on the website of the NAACP.
Here is some additional background to the story, for anyone unfamiliar with Troy Davis’ case, by Dave Zirin of The Nation.
TODAY, GEORGIA MURDERS TROY DAVIS
It’s with rage that I report that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday denied clemency for Troy Anthony Davis. The 42-year-old Davis is now due to be executed TODAY, Wednesday September 21, at 7 pm. For those unfamiliar with the case, let’s be clear: Davis’s execution is little more than a legal lynching. As the New York Times wrote this morning in a featured editorial, the Georgia pardon and parole board's refusal to grant him clemency is appalling in light of developments after his conviction."
The facts speak for themselves. Back in 1989, nine people testified that they saw Troy Davis kill Officer Mark MacPhail. Since that time, seven have recanted their testimony. Please allow me to repeat: of the nine people who testified that Troy killed Officer Mark MacPhail, seven have recanted their testimony. Beyond the eyewitnesses, there was no physical evidence linking Troy to Officer MacPhail’s murder. None. Three jurors have signed affidavits saying that if they had all the information about Troy, they would not have voted to convict. One juror even arrived in person to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to say to their faces that she would not have voted to convict if she’d had the facts. Another woman has even come forward to say that a different man on the scene that night, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, bragged afterward about doing the shooting. Of the two witnesses who still maintain that Troy was the triggerman, one is Sylvester “Redd” Coles.
From day one, Troy has maintained his innocence. But he was the wrong color, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong bank account and the wrong legal team, so he was thrown into the death house with little fanfare. Yet the tireless work of Troy’s family, particularly his sister Martina, brought international attention to the case. From former President Jimmy Carter, to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher, to Pope Benedict XVI, to Reagan’s former FBI Director, William Sessions, to the more than one million people who signed petitions, the call has gone out to spare Troy’s life. But the Board of Pardons and Paroles didn’t care. Previously the Board issued a statement that they would only allow the execution to go through, if there was “no doubt” as to his guilt. They lied.
As Brian Kammer, one of Davis’s attorneys, said Tuesday after the decision was announced, “I am utterly shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice.” He’s absolutely correct. Demonstrations have been planned for today in cities around the country. I know that Washington, DC, will see people come out at 6 PM AT MT.VERNON SQUARE where the Congressional Black Caucus is meeting. I know that students are marching from Howard University to the White House at noon. I know that students at the University of Maryland are gathering in the heart of their campus at 2pm. I know there is a huge tribute to the late, great People's History of the United States historian Howard Zinn tonight at Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville and I know what Howard would be doing if he was still with us. He'd be on the march.
I was there when Howard met Troy Davis's sister Martina, just a few months before Howard died, at a conference of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Martina told Howard, "I'm going to be one of those people that you write about, Mr. Zinn. One of those people who no one saw coming that changed the world. I'm going to save my brother." Howard didn't live write about Troy but It's not too late to make Martina's words prophetic. I know that Judge Penny Freesemann still has the power to withdraw its death warrant. These are slim options, but I also know that this isn’t over until they send the poison into Troy’s veins. Troy himself has refused a “last meal,” choosing to fight until his last breath. We owe him nothing less.
[Call Judge Penny Freesemann at 912 652 7252. Fax at 912 652-7254">.