Too Much Doubt: The Troy Davis Story

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For twenty (20) years, Troy Davis sat on death row in Georgia for the murder of police officer, Mark Mac Phail. Amnesty provides a summary of the Troy Davis and it reads as follows: Troy Davis, a black man, was convicted primarily based on eye witness testimony of the murder of a Savannah, Georgia, white police officer, Mark MacPhail, and sentenced to death. Davis was on death row from 1991-2011. Since Troy Davis’ conviction, seven of the nine key eye witnesses against him recanted or changed their testimony. The United States Supreme Court ordered a new trial court hearing which took place in June 2010. At the trial, Davis was required to conclusively prove his innocence. The trial judge ruled that Davis did not meet this “extraordinarily high standard” of proof. The judge went on to criticize the credibility of of the eye testimony used to convict Davis. Davis did NOT have the benefit of scientific or physical evidence. But four (4) witnesses testified that they had lied at trial. A new eyewitness testified that his relative, not Davis, shot and killed Officer Mark Mac Phail. The judge did admit that the case against Davis was NOT “ironclad”.

Despite serious doubts about his guilt, Troy Davis’ execution was held late on the evening of September 21, 2011. The United States criminal justice system is based on guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s the foundation of our justice system, built to serve and protect the wrongly accused. But in the case of Troy Davis, it’s a principle that was defied, ignored, and trampled on. The petition seeking clemency in the Troy Davis case was signed by almost one million persons. Despite cries for clemency from persons around the world, the Georgia Board of Paroles denied Troy Davis’ request for clemency in his death row case. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, designed specifically to ensure that executions never happen amidst so much doubt, allowed it to happen anyway. Additionally, Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm refused to ask the judge to withdraw Troy’s death warrant. Despite serious doubts about his guilt, Troy Davis’ execution was held on September 21, 2011. Many Davis supporters around the world assert that there was simply too much doubt for his execution.

As Troy Davis wrote in a letter when he was facing execution in 2008 :” … 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’ [across the nation on death row]. 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.” Amnesty International and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have been seeking to do just that. Specifically, these organizations have been quite successful in raising awareness about the problems with criminal justice system and the need to end the death penalty. The number of persons supporting their work is growing as demonstrated in the case of Troy Davis. As stated previously, the petition seeking clemency in the Troy Davis case was signed by almost one million persons. NAACP and Amnesty International have experienced steady progress in this important undertaking to end the death penalty. However, the Troy Davis case reminds us that more work needs to be done to end the death penalty.

“Justices on the Georgia State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court — men and women who know that our justice system is degraded when we allow someone to be executed even when the former warden [Dr. Allen Ault, retired Director of the Georgia Department of Corrections and former Warden of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison] of the very prison the inmate is in says there is too much doubt to proceed — cleared the way for the execution to be carried out anyway. These failures are the result of a system that gives the power of life and death, God-like powers, to humans who are as prone to error and susceptible to bias as any of us. Human nature won’t change, so the system must. This must never happen again.”

The execution of Troy Davis significantly undermines the credibility of the Georgia system of justice. It moved forward with an execution under a persistent cloud of doubts about guilt. This conduct shows a callous disregard for the very real possibility of putting an innocent person to death, and public faith in Georgia’s commitment to a fair justice system is shattered. Our criminal justice system is flawed as most recently demonstrated in the Troy Davis case. Because of the life or death consequences in states where the death penalty is permissible under the law, the criminal justice system must be flawless or there is a possibility that an innocent person could be executed. When justice is administered by humans, it susceptible to error. Under the afore-referenced circumstances, the death penalty must be eradicated nationwide.

Cerebral Motion Productions is producing a three part series entitled, Corruption: The Politics of Crime. The first in this series is TOO MUCH DOUBT: The Story of Troy A. Davis, which looks into the international campaign to stop his execution. It features Martina Davis Correia, Kim Davis, and other members of the Davis family. It also features Big Boi and prominent leaders in the campaign.

Source(s): Amnesty. Georgians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Campaign to End the Death Penalty. NAACP. Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art.

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