Shameful. That is the most appropriate word we can conjure for Georgia’s planned execution tonight of Troy Davis. The decision by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to deny the appeal by Mr. Davis for clemency is a gross injustice that stains our nation’s already tattered reputation in the world community. By ignoring a mountain of evidence that calls into question the guilty verdict rendered against Mr. Davis, the state of Georgia is making a mockery of justice and cheapening the values upon which our judicial system is supposedly built.
The outpouring of support for Mr. Davis’ clemency has been unprecedented. A wide cross section of people from around the world has taken up his cause, and the planned execution of Mr. Davis has provoked an outcry against capital punishment unlike any we have witnessed in recent memory. Among the 1 million people who signed petitions calling for clemency and who campaigned on behalf of Mr. Davis were Pope Benedict, President Jimmy Carter, former FBI Director William Sessions, former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Mr. Davis has drawn support from across the ideological, cultural and political spectrum and has galvanized a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement on his behalf. Still, it appears the Georgia Parole Board was motivated by an urge to get this [the execution of Mr. Davis] over no matter if the evidence was pointing to his innocence. It is the callous disregard for the judicial standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that smacks of arrogance and should alarm all Americans, particularly African-Americans and Hispanics.
Let’s face it, Black men charged with crimes, let alone crimes punishable by death, engage the criminal justice system at an extreme disadvantage. There is no presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In fact, there is an assumption that a Black male is guilty of criminal acts simply by virtue of the fact that he is Black. In the case of Troy Davis it seems the Georgia Parole Board, even with the presence of African-American members, was intent on delivering Mr. Davis to the executioner’s table in some sort of depraved obligation to feed racial stereotypes. What the state is preparing to do to Mr. Davis is no different than the fate that met off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail, the shooting victim who is at the center of this case. If Mr. Davis were white, and middle class, we suspect his appeal for clemency would have been granted. It is a sad reality that race continues to determine life and death when states are given the opportunity to judge who is worthy of living.
Killing Troy Davis does not bring back Officer Mark MacPhail, though his death will provide a false sense of closure and justice to his family. This should not be a life swap though; delivering up an innocent defendant simply to fulfill a desire to get it over with, as the comments of some of Officer MacPhail’s family seem to imply. Their loss and pain is understandable but the pursuit of real justice should not be sacrificed. Executing an innocent defendant runs counter to the system of justice that Officer MacPhail swore to uphold and cannot be accepted as a “cost of doing business” simply to bring closure to a case. The taking of an innocent life is a grievous offense for which the real killer of the victim and the Parole Board members who decided Mr. Davis’ fate will be held accountable by a higher power.
There is very little we can say to soothe the hurt of the Davis family. They have stood by Mr. Davis and used every means possible to try to save his life. They did not fail. Our system of justice has failed. As they say their final goodbyes we can only offer the Davis family that what man is set to take away, God has made eternal. Our prayers and thoughts are with Mr. Davis and his family. May God have mercy upon his soul and show no mercy to those who have taken his life.
Pictured are the members of the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.