Why Am I Still Troy Davis?
Michelle Domingue ’12
On September 21, 2011 at 11:08 p.m., Troy Davis’ veins pleaded guilty to a crime suffocated by reasonable doubt. As I stared blankly at the television in Morehouse College’s student center with tears welling in my eyes and fire consuming my once content spirit, I thought to myself, “They won again.” “They” refers to the blur of faces responsible for upholding a decision about a case fueled solely by witness testimonies. “They” also refers to the pillars of racism, White supremacy, and hegemony that continue to erect the house of biased social and political governance of this country. Troy Davis fell victim to an inherently flawed system, skewed to condemn the marginalized, the minority, and misguided at all costs.
Before delving into the events surrounding the mysterious fate of Troy Davis, some background information is in order.Davis was convicted with the 1989 murder of Savannah police officer,Mark MacPhail in 1991 and sentenced to death by lethal injection. Seven witnesses claimed they saw Davis shoot MacPhail and two alleged that Davis personally confessed his crime. As years passed, seven of nine witnesses recanted all or part of their statements. State and federal courts repeatedly denied Davis’ requests for a re-trial, allowing all testimonial evidence to be “frozen,” or unable to be altered, at the time of the first trial in 1991.Before the 2011 execution date,Davis was granted stay of execution on three separate occasions (June 2007, July 2008, and October 2008), all surrounding doubts of Davis’ guilt.
I can still picture that “fateful” day. Budding activists from the Atlanta University Center filled crowded buses the afternoon of Davis’ fourth execution date destined for the Georgia Diagnostic and Corrections Prison in Jackson, Ga., where Troy Davis was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. NAACP Chairwoman Roslyn Brock directed us to Towaliga County Line Baptist Church for a brief meeting before the demonstration. After nearly an hour of singing, praying, and devouring inspirational words, protesters flooded the area surrounding the prison.
S.W.A.T. team members lined the entrance to the maximum security prison. Protesters stood clanging pots and makeshift drums in order to convey to those influential officials to grant Davis clemency, or at the very least, another stay of execution. 6:59 p.m. stared us each in the eyes for what seemed like an eternity. We fell to our knees with clasped hands praying and hoping for a miracle. And, we received it. Davis’ execution was delayed by a review by the Supreme Court of the United States, yet no official stay had been granted. We shouted at the prospects of actually saving this man from corrupt jurisprudence. 10 o’clock had come, and all assembled were sure that Davis was safe. However, a later upholding of Davis’ guilt led to his death roughly an hour later.
I am Troy Davis. My father is Troy Davis. Anyone suffering at the hands of the hegemonic forces of America’s institutions is Troy Davis. The only thing separating any of us from Davis is time and a trial. No one is immune to the fallibility of human memory or the abuse of an official’s authority. The practice of capital punishment requires cessation immediately. As Voltaire profoundly stated, “It is better to risk saving a guilty man than to condemn an innocent one.” The uncertainty of Davis’ involvement, due to lack of substantial evidence, incited nauseous feelings in the stomachs of those who tuned in to news casts covering the compensatory murder for a slain officer. How can a country that shouts “God bless America!” rationalize justifying murder supported by fickle, oft-ill-interpreted law? Now that Davis is gone, what now? Americans often treat serious ethical issues like fads. We ride the swelling tide, in hopes of stealing a few minutes on camera, and the moment media coverage fades, so does our fervor for justice. Diligence is essential to the eradication of such practices that perpetuate incivility. Remaining complicit in one’s oppression only allows for further exploitation to the point of physical and spiritual decimation. Don’t let Davis’ death be the end of a fight against a system whose best interests are maintaining the status quo and not progressing to an ideal of harmony, equality, and justice. I am still enraged; I am still fighting; I am still Troy Davis.