Troy Davis will be executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. September 21, 2011.
This final act, on behalf of the United States Justice Department, will be a major talking point for opponents of the Death Penalty in the United States. After serving 22 years on death row for allegedly shooting and killing a Savannah, GA cop, Troy Davis fought for many years proclaiming his innocence. Those pleas went unheard as all four of his stays were overturned and his clemency denied. Forgoing his option for a last meal, Troy Davis will spend his last few remaining hours with friends, family, and supporters.
On August 18, 1989, Troy Davis was leaving a pool party in Cloverdale, GA with friend and fellow passenger Darrell Collins when they ran into Michael Cooper, an inebriated passenger in another vehicle. Michael Cooper would be shot in the face, and according to various witnesses, most of whom failed to assert their accounts when standing trial, Troy Davis was the shooter. Soon after this alleged shooting, Troy Davis and Darrell Collins drove to a pool hall at the foot of the old Talmadge Bridge.
There, in a nearby Burger King parking lot, they met with Sylvester “Red” Coles who, at the time, was arguing with a homeless man, Larry Young, over a beer. When Davis jumped into the fray, Larry Young yelled for help which prompted off-duty police officer and Burger King security guard Mark Allen McPhail to rush over to assist. According to Larry Young’s now deceased girlfriend, Harriett Murray, Troy Davis pistol-whipped Larry Young with a snub-nosed .38 revolver before fatally shooting McPhail twice. McPhail did not have a chance to unholster his gun.
In the hours that followed, Davis would flee from the scene and drive to Atlanta with his sister before turning himself in five days later.
But in the many years following Troy Davis’s conviction of the fatal shooting of an off-duty police officer, numerous witnesses have recanted their statements, evidence has been thrown out due to an illegal search and seizure, and doubts have continued to be raised.
A majority of witnesses that tie Troy Davis to the shooting have come out and said they were coerced into naming Troy Davis as the killer by threats made by interrogating officers. Not knowing their rights and fearing those in a position of authority, many of these witnesses crumbled under the hard-nosed practices of officers looking to avenge one of their own. But with the help of organizations like the NAACP and Amnesty International fighting on behalf of Troy Davis’s basic freedoms, these witnesses have been empowered in their criticisms of the investigation. Unfortunately for Troy Davis, their protests have fallen on deaf ears. All appeals on behalf of Troy Davis’s innocence have been rejected.
Many supporters of Troy Davis have questioned the strength of a conviction where the majority of witnesses have now recanted their testimonies and where forensic evidence has yet to be found linking the condemned to the crime.
And perhaps most damningly, a murder weapon has yet to be produced.
In fact, it has even been brought up that Sylvester “Red” Coles may have been the shooter all along. Coles admits to possessing a .38 revolver, not unlike the gun described in the shooting, and was the first person of interest to point the finger at Troy Davis. He is also one of the only two witnesses to not have recanted his testimony. But due to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, new evidence implicating Sylvester Coles as the killer cannot be introduced to save Troy Davis’s life.
Whether we blame overly aggressive police tactics, incompetent lawyers and judges, or the fact that this is another trial in the Southern United States where a black male is indicted for killing a white police officer, we cannot deny that our system is broken.
This egregious display of injustice cannot continue to go on.
In 2010, according to Amnesty International (a staunch proponent of human rights and a voice for the many prisoners of conscience), our country executed 46 inmates. A number that is behind only 4 mostly backward countries: China, Iran, North Korea, and Yemen. Yes, our country is by far one of the most lethal killers in the world and yet we have the resources to be better. We refuse citizens, the very citizens we vow to protect, the opportunity to a fair trail by employing unlawful interrogation techniques and unabated harassment.
Throughout the entire process, Troy Davis has maintained his innocence. When he is executed by lethal injection at 7 p.m. tonight, we may never know if this great country of ours just executed another innocent man.
And if that sliver of doubt proves to be true, today will be the day that our justice system has failed us.