On 19 August 1989, Mark McPhail, an off-duty police officer in Georgia was murdered. Troy Davis was arrested and charged. Despite there being no physical evidence and the murder weapon never having been found, he was convicted and sentenced to death, based on 9 eye-witness testimonies.
By 2003, seven out of the nine had changed their stories, several said they had implicated Davis under police coercion, one was later found to be illiterate and could not read the statement which he had signed. Other witnesses came forward to point the finger at one of the two witnesses who maintained their version of the killing, the other has been silent for 20 years. The defence also presented a challenge to ballistics evidence.
After delays and appeals, an execution date was set for the fourth time for 21 September 2011. On the day itself, the execution was delayed, bringing jubilation to Davis’ family, friends and supporters, 500 of whom were gathered outside the maximum security prison in Jackson. However, talk of a reprieve gave way to murmurs of a stay and at 11.08pm local time, Troy Davis was executed by lethal injection, stating his innocence to the last.
Why do I bring this to your attention? First of all, in a tiny way I feel personally affected by this. At Christmas 2010 I took part in an event run by Amnesty International and the Green Party to write Christmas cards to numerous people across the world who are detained, unjustly. Troy Davis, in his last week, said how much he valued the support he received from across the world and that he read every letter and card that he received. The knowledge that he read the card I sent him has touched me.
Secondly, as Troy Davis said himself, this is bigger that just him. A supposedly civilised nation, one of our closest allies, continues to murder people. The horrific irony of the notion that you send a message that “killing is wrong”, by killing, seems completely lost. Never mind the fact that it seems very likely that Davis was innocent of this offence. The Death Penalty. You can’t take it back.