The September execution of Troy Davis by a Georgia State court made national headlines. His case has continued to permeate the media since the August 19, 1989 murder of off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail.
There was overwhelming international support to save Davis’ life. The decision to execute him went all the way to the Supreme Court, who issued a 3-hour stay in his final moments, giving hope not only to his family, but supporters alike. He was executed on September 21, 2011 at 11:08 p.m. after the Supreme Court gave the green light to claiming that time to prove his innocence had expired. In fact this case had been over 20 years in the making.
Still, this case along with many others continues to raise the question about the American justice system. This is a system where Troy Davis was convicted of a murder according to 7 eyewitnesses, who later recanted or changed their original testimony and two others who say Davis confessed to them. This is a system that relied on little to no DNA evidence that would actually link Davis to the murder, but ballistic evidence showed the murder was related to an earlier crime.
In June 2010, seven of the nine trial witnesses whose original testimony had identified Davis as the murderer, changed or recanted their previous testimony, asserting they had been coerced by police. Several implicated one of the original prosecution witnesses, Sylvester “Redd” Coles, in the crime. Still, this wasn’t enough to overturn Davis’ execution.
Since 1976 the state of Georgia has executed 52 people and in 1945 one woman, Lena Baker was executed for killing her boss and in 2005 the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles granted a pardon saying the verdict of manslaughter would have been more appropriate.
What’s even more interesting in a case like this that seems to spark outrage is the recent Casey Anthony case. Anthony was suspected of killing her toddler child, Kaylee, but was acquitted on the charges in a Florida court and Davis got executed, even though evidence was not fully supportive of the charges. Also interesting to note are the statistics as it relates to executions. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 15 white defendants have been executed for the murder of black victims, but 246 African-Americans have been executed for killing whites.
While assertions that the U.S. executes more blacks than whites are incorrect — the country has executed 263 more white people than black people since the death penalty’s 1976 reinstatement — inequalities exist when a murder is interracial.
Public outrage of this case sparked protests across the world. Amnesty International became involved along with National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other national public figures like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter. Many people have also taken to social media to comment on their feelings about the case. One person, JamesKlynn wrote through Twitter, “Casey Anthony is offered a book deal, Troy Davis is only offered his last meal. Wake up America, our justice system is screwed,” came a tweet from the handle JamesKlynn.
Below you will find Troy Davis’ final letter he wrote before being executed:
I want to thank all of you for your efforts and dedication to Human Rights and Human Kindness, in the past year I have experienced such emotion, joy, sadness and never ending faith. It is because of all of you that I am alive today, as I look at my sister Martina I am marveled by the love she has for me and of course I worry about her and her health, but as she tells me she is the eldest and she will not back down from this fight to save my life and prove to the world that I am innocent of this terrible crime.
As I look at my mail from across the globe, from places I have never ever dreamed I would know about and people speaking languages and expressing cultures and religions I could only hope to one day see first hand. I am humbled by the emotion that fills my heart with overwhelming, overflowing Joy. I can’t even explain the insurgence of emotion I feel when I try to express the strength I draw from you all, it compounds my faith and it shows me yet again that this is not a case about the death penalty, this is not a case about Troy Davis, this is a case about Justice and the Human Spirit to see Justice prevail.
I cannot answer all of your letters but I do read them all, I cannot see you all but I can imagine your faces, I cannot hear you speak but your letters take me to the far reaches of the world, I cannot touch you physically but I feel your warmth everyday I exist.
So Thank you and remember I am in a place where execution can only destroy your physical form but because of my faith in God, my family and all of you I have been spiritually free for some time and no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. 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 and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.
I can’t wait to Stand with you, no matter if that is in physical or spiritual form, I will one day be announcing,
“I AM TROY DAVIS, and I AM FREE!”
Never Stop Fighting for Justice and We will Win!