Convicted American Troy Davis had been on Death Row in Georgia, Alabama for over 20 years for the alleged murder of an off-duty police officer. He has always maintained his innocence. His execution had already been stayed three times due to serious doubt pertaining to evidence, witness testimonies and a dubious line up of initial jury representatives.
On 7th September, Georgia set what would become the ultimate date for Davis’ execution, the 21st September, 2011 at 7pm EDT.
Shortly after 7pm EDT on that date, the social media buzz rippled that Troy Davis had been prepared for execution but was, in fact still alive. The reason for delay remained unclear for almost half an hour.
Davis had been granted a ‘reprieve’ while the Supreme Court took on a plea for a final-hour review. It was still within their power to halt the proceedings for good, and to launch a full, federal investigation into the murder he was alleged to have committed and behind which several questions remained unanswered. A reprieve rather than a stay meant, however, that Davis could still be put to death at any point over the next 7-days. He would have no idea when his time would come, or indeed if it would really come at all. Once again he was in limbo. Just waiting.
Shortly before 2am GMT+1 (8pm EDT) a brief headline by the BBC reported that a statement, issued by the White House, had concluded that although Obama “has worked to ensure accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system,” it was not appropriate for him “to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution”.
Troy Davies was finally executed at 11.04 EDT – four whole hours after the original time set for his execution. The Supreme Court failed to produce a statement to support their rejection of the plea.
I had not heard of this case until yesterday, but have spent several hours today reading around the sequence of events from 1989 onwards, and a number of things have shocked me greatly, particularly about the last 24 hours:
1. that a man – even a guilty man, could be brought to his execution for the fourth time, strapped down and then forced to wait 4 whole hours while the Supreme Court deliberated on a plea I suspect they knew they were going to reject.
2. that there is still so much doubt behind this case but that Troy Davis was still sentenced to die by a Supreme Court when they had the option and the power to halt the execution once and for all and to launch a federal investigation.
3. that even requests for clemency for Davis submitted by the family of the murdered man were ignored by the state of Georgia as irrelevant and that Davis was denied a request to perform a polygraph test in a last attempt to prove his innocence.
4. that the Supreme Court could not prove Davis’ guilt, but refused to allow him to live as he could not prove ‘without doubt’ that he was innocent.
5. that the Whitehouse considered it “inappropriate” that the President Obama “weigh in” on a state trial, despite intervention by Amnesty International and a petition signed by over one million people world-wide and, more to the point, despite the lack of concrete evidence that Davis was in fact guilty.
I was alarmed by the media silence last night and in the cold light of a new day, it saddens me greatly to see tweets like “he’s dead. Get over it.”
I can only concur with another which stated (paraphrased) “When smart people have to deliberate on the element of doubt behind a case, then that should be reason enough not to execute a man”
My one and only question to the Georgian state and to the President of the United States is How in the name of your own collective conscience, could you let this happen?