A little disclaimer before I start this; the words below are mine, a reflection of my thoughts, opinions, and emotions as enshrined in the United Nations Human Rights Charter. Feel free to read, and document your thoughts in the comments section, but please note that that’s all they will be, comments. Agreed? Good. Now you can read.
So 42 year old Troy Davis was executed by lethal injection last night; he died at 11.08EDT. As far as I am concerned, he died a long time ago, and many times at that, what with the number of times he’s faced execution. On the back of that, I’m happy he’s actually dead; the ‘simulation’ can finally stop.
My heartfelt condolences go to the MacPhail family, his two children, his widow, and his parents. Losing a son is hard, and I dare not say I know how they feel but I have a pretty good idea, having lost a few people myself. I feel their pain, and the healing they so desperately seek, 22 years on.
My condolences also go to the Davis family, especially his sister, Martina Davis-Correia, who despite fighting breast cancer, has campaigned day and night, and across several countries for a stay of execution, clemency, or a new evidentiary trial for her baby brother.
An abridged version of this story for people who are just hearing of it. In the evening of the 18th of August 1989, 21 year old Troy Davis attended a pool party. As he left with a friend, some guys in a car yelled obscenities at them. There was a shooting and Michael Cooper, one of the guys in the car, was shot in the face. Later that night (past midnight) in a nearby park, Troy and his friends met another friend (Sylvester ‘Redd’ Coles) arguing with a homeless man. Policeman Mark MacPhail was shot twice, in the heart and in the head when he attempted to save the homeless man from being ‘pistol whipped’.
The next day, (19/08/1981) Sylvester ‘Redd’ Coles goes to the police, and says Troy Davis was the person who killed Mac Phail. On the 15th of November, Davis was indicted by a grand jury for murder of the policeman, assaulting the homeless guy, shooting Michael Cooper (from the pool party) in the face, obstructing the policeman in the performance of his duty, and being in possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Davis pled not guilty in April, 1990 but on the 30th of August 1991, the jury recommended the death penalty and Troy Davis was sentenced to death.
Fast forward 20 years, countless appeals, and three execution dates later, seven out of the nine witnesses who gave statements against Davis in 1991 had either recanted or changes their testimony, citing fear or intimidation from the police for their original testimony. One particular witness said he’s illiterate and so could not read the testimony he signed back then. I thought you might want to see this video.
Let me make this clear; I’m not judging the case. I have no idea who’s guilty or innocent, neither can I by the wave of a wand produce the gun whose bullets felled the police officer. Heck, new evidence indicates that Sylvester ‘Redd’ Coles might even be the killer! All I’m saying is that death is too permanent. You cannot take it back, and no amount of compensation (monetary or otherwise) can bring a life back so extreme caution must be taken in these things. There was doubt, no matter how minimal or ‘smoke and mirrors (as Judge T. Williams said in his August 2010 Supreme Court ruling).
Funny, but I stumbled on Troy Davis’ case just yesterday as I was reading the story of the Birmingham Six; Irishmen who were convicted of the bombings of two pubs in Birmingham in 1975 and sentenced to life imprisonment. 16 years after (March 14, 1991 to be precise), their convictions were declared unsafe and overturned. They received compensation ranging from £840, 000 to £1.2million but 20 years after, are still battling psychological trauma. Feel free to read up about the Maguire Seven, the Guildford Four, Tipton Three, and other ‘miscarriages of justice’.
In all the above, the option for restitution remained because they were in prison, not executed. And that is the thrust of this chronicle. There is no such hope for Troy Davis now because he is dead.
If in the future, Troy Davis is exonerated, or the killer steps up, what happens? How do you apologize to his family? How do you tell the MacPhail family that they need to start their healing process again because the person they thought killed their son was innocent? According to my good friend @RGAMeyer, “what we have now is TWO families with the possibility of NO justice”. I agree.
I also agree with whoever says the death sentence belongs in the Stone Age; Martin Luther King Jr. said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, and “the old law – an eye for an eye will leave everyone blind.”
Rest in peace, Troy Davis.
- Season One, Episode Five: Just A Thought… (lashawncherie.wordpress.com)
- Troy Davis: ‘I am innocent’ (theglobeandmail.com)