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September 22, 2011

6

the death of justice

by Andrea O'Connell
Troy Davis

Not the face of a murderer!

As you know, Troy Davis lost the battle against the Machine last evening.

I am mad, emotional and exhausted as a result of this terrible outcome.

It seemed certain the U.S. Supreme Court (the Supremes), would take more than four hours to consider the life of Troy Davis, human being.  But they didn’t.

When the Supremes granted the stay before 7:00 last evening, such a sense of euphoria collectively wafted around all of us standing sentinel.  The stay, however, was soon replaced with horror as barely four hours later, the Supremes rendered a devastating decision.

Our system of justice is not that at all.  It’s a system, yes, but where is the justice?  Why must we murder?  How is this civilized?  Why did the Supremes only consider Troy’s life for four hours?

I thought for sure the Supremes would do something.  It is understandable why President Obama could not get involved in this fight, it would be unprecedented and would smack of something akin to dictatorship had he stepped in.  Obama could not usurp the power of the State of Georgia.  I understand that.  What I do not understand is Georgia’s refusal to listen to their own son, President Jimmy Carter.

I am not sure if this issue was about politics, racism, or both.  In my gut I think it’s both.

The State of Georgia said the “excuses” made in defense of Troy Davis was smoke and mirrors.   I don’t want to believe the State of Georgia would lie outright….. but, something is very wrong when so many thousands of people stand up for justice only to have their pleadings fall on deaf ears.

Can all the thousands of citizens, judges, lawyers, and law enforcement officials, be under the influence of smoke and mirrors?

Clearly someone has it wrong.  I don’t have the answer, obviously.  Hopefully someone will offer a history of this case – I’d like a better understanding of the facts and of the purported smoke and mirrors.

The Color of Change

The email below is from the Color of Change organization.  I’ve included their website, too.

I hope you find some solace in their message.  I did.

I have a new sense of resolve about this issue.  It has to be our mission.   If a fight has to happen before change can happen, then I’m ready.

I don’t have any idea how change can happen, but a dialog must happen sooner rather than later.   People need to be educated about the issue of murdering human beings as retribution.

The best place to learn more about these issues is to visit and support organizations like The Color of Change, The NAACP, Amnesty International, The Innocence Project, and others.

The fight is over due. As a society we cannot continue to condone barbaric murders in the false name of justice.  No more.

Check out the Color of Change website for important messages:  http://www.colorofchange.org/

Dear Andrea,

At 11:08 pm Wednesday, the state of Georgia killed Troy Davis. Just before he was executed, Troy maintained his innocence, urged people to dig deeper into the case to find the truth, and said “For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your souls, may God bless your souls.” It’s a tragic day for Troy, for his family, and for equality, fairness, and justice.

It’s hard to know what to say at a time like this. In this moment, and in the days and weeks before Troy’s execution, we’ve felt all kinds of things — anger, sadness, inspiration, hope and hopelessness. This is a time to mourn and remember Troy, to contemplate the profound loss we’re facing, to send love and support to Troy’s family and friends. It’s incredibly important to take the time to spiritually and emotionally care for Troy’s family and the amazing community that has arisen to support Troy — and it feels hard to muster the energy to do much more than that.

But before he died, Troy told us that this was about more than him — and he called on those of us who have fought against his execution to continue fighting for justice, even if we weren’t successful in saving his life. Now is also an important moment to take stock of what’s brought us to this point — the criminal justice system that allowed this to happen, and the movement we’ve built to fight for Troy and others facing injustice and oppression at the hands of that system.

Race, the criminal justice system, and the death penalty

At every stage of the criminal justice system, Black people and other minorities face inequality and discrimination. We all know about people who’ve been treated unfairly by police or by the courts. When the entire system treats Black people unequally, it means that the death penalty is applied unequally too. Troy Davis’ case underscores the way in which this systemic inequality can lead to a tragic miscarriage of justice.

In most cases, people who’ve been treated unfairly or wrongly convicted have some chance to correct the injustice. People who have been mistreated by the police can sue them. People who are wrongly serving time can be granted new trials, can be released from prison, and are sometimes entitled to compensation. As we all know, the safeguards that can correct abuse by the criminal justice system often fail, and rampant inequality persists. Usually, people can at least keep trying.

But there’s no way to correct a death sentence. If Troy Davis were serving a sentence of life in prison without parole, he could continue to press the legal system to grant him a fair trial — but because the death penalty exists, he will not have that opportunity.

Troy Davis’ case has sparked a national conversation about the death penalty. In the past, much of the debate around the death penalty has focused on the morality of killing people as a legal punishment — a very important question that brings out a lot of strong opinions. But even if we completely leave aside the question whether or not it can ever be right for the government to punish a murderer by killing them, there’s an entirely different debate to be had — whether or not we can have the death penalty and actually avoid the possibility of killing innocent people. In a criminal justice system that routinely misidentifies Black suspects and disproportionately punishes Black people, Black folks are more likely to be wrongfully executed.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the death penalty has been used to kill innocent people many times. Since 1973, more than 130 people have been released from death row because of evidence that they were wrongly convicted. Troy Davis is one of many people who were executed despite serious questions about their guilt, and he’s called on his supporters to continue working to end the death penalty.

A group of NAACP organizers went to visit Troy in prison yesterday, and NAACP’s Robert Rooks said this about the visit:

For someone that was facing death the very next day, he was just full of life and wanted to spend time talking to the younger staff, the interns, giving them direction and hope and asking them to hold onto God. And he challenged them. He challenged them by saying, “You have a choice. You can either fold up your bags after tomorrow and go home, or you can stand and continue this fight.” He said it doesn’t—it didn’t begin with Troy Davis, and this won’t end if he is executed today. He just asked us all just to continue to fight to end the death penalty, if in fact he’s executed.

A powerful movement

For years, ColorOfChange members have been an important part of a growing movement to stop Troy Davis’ execution. Hundreds of phone calls from ColorOfChange members to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole helped delay Davis’ execution twice. Over the past year, there’s been a huge outpouring of support for Davis from ColorOfChange members — more than 100,000 of us have signed petitions, and we raised more than $30,000 to run radio ads in Georgia calling for justice for Troy.

And we’ve been part of an even bigger movement — NAACP, Amnesty International, National Action Network, Change.org, and others have all been a major part of the fight for Troy Davis, and there are now over close to a million petition signatures overall. Prominent people from all across the political spectrum have spoken out: members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions, former Georgia Republican congressman Bob Barr, and former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher.

This movement couldn’t stop Davis’ execution — but it’s a movement that won’t die with Troy Davis. There’s no better way to honor Troy’s memory than to keep fighting for justice.

Thanks and Peace,

— Rashad, James, Gabriel, William, Dani, Matt, Natasha and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
September 21st, 2011

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 23 2011

    I still hope for the day that the race card won’t be played anymore. I have to say this, though, that my first thought upon reading about the execution of the white supremicist in Texas was that it was done to disarm any race discussions that would arise from Mr. Davis’ execution.

    IMO, Georgia abused the system (but would like us to believe that Davis’ defense team were the abusers) and should not have the weighty responsibility of meting out justice ising the Death Penalty for heinous murders. They have blood on their hands now.

    I’m not sure I understand why Obama couldn’t step in. Dictators don’t care about their citizens and if Obama would have stepped up to the plate then it would have been one thing for this ol’ conservative to smile about. I’m sure I’ll “get it” upon thinking more about it.

    I’m glad the letter helped you a bit. Amazing how an injustice can bring in our way a means to do something about it for the future’s sake. It sparks that righteous indignation that improves and protects the sanctity of life for future generations. We’ll never know the magnitude of our impact (that keeps us humble) but we must keep going nonetheless.

    For God’s sake and for Troy’s may all who endeavor to right this wrong be blessed with success.

    Reply
  2. colleen
    Sep 23 2011

    Thanks Andrea for writing about this. Change will happen.

    Reply
  3. Sep 23 2011

    District attorneys answer directly to the people. If they had more independence, they might be more willing to work for justice rather than simply for convictions, and to admit they (and their predecessors) might have been wrong. But that would require appointment by fair-minded individuals–who answer to the electorate. I live in Texas; I don’t know what it will take to generate change in the current atmosphere.

    Regarding the recent execution in Texas, this article might interest you.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/21/us-texas-execution-son-idUSTRE78K35B20110921

    Reply
    • Sep 23 2011

      Hi Kathy, You’re right, the DA is a slave to politics, unfortunately. Texas style justice is frightening because of the sheer number of people murdered in the name of the people. Georgia is no better and Florida runs a close third.

      I read that article, too. It is terribly sickening and devastating to realize that there are lynch mobs who hate the color of someone’s skin so much they’d literally tie them to their truck hitch and drag them to death.

      We live in a violent nation.

      Reply
  4. Sep 23 2011

    Andrea, Fishin in this neck of the woods has been so good I am just catching up on your posts. The Troy Davis issue is one of many that are coming due because of forensics and witnesses. I did spend time reading about the case before it made headlines the last few weeks. I am one of those that believe in the death penalty but not how it is adjudicated and carried out in this country. Our judicial system is not perfect yet is one of the best systems in the free world. I would agree that there should not be one mistake in giving a death penalty as well as carrying it out but that would not be realistic. Quoting you,
    “Why did the Supremes only consider Troy’s life for four hours?
    Troy’s life was not considered in four hours…..it has been considered for over twenty years through due process of appeals. I am not 100% sure they got it right over the twenty years but with over 2+ million incarcerated in this country and only a couple that may have gone to their death innocent speaks volumes for how our system works. I assure you I am not being callous, it’s more along the line of being realistic in a troubling society of late. There is no way we could ever get this perfect. After watching the OJ, Casey Anthony & Scott Peterson trials…we know it’s not a perfect system. I am not excited to see what happens in the Drew Peterson trial. The couple of things I am confident about. 1. How easy it is to sit behind my keyboard and have the freedom of my opinion based on what I read. 2. Juries can only base their verdict on what is provided as evidence. I am not the one sitting there. 3. The people charged and brought to trial are there for a reason.
    In my 58 years, I grew up in the melting pot of an inner city with all the trappings of troubles. I never put myself in the position that would require being charged with a crime. I had few friends that ended up behind bars because of the elements they chose to hang out with or be around situations that would breed unlawful activity. Although I have friends that are in law enforcement and attorneys for both sides….I wouldn’t want the job they have to do. I don’t know how they sleep……

    Reply
    • Sep 23 2011

      Hi DamagdPets! I’m sure glad you got in some good fishin! (Hope you are even better at cooking it!)

      I agree with you that our system is the very best there is, but only in the the hands of the non-political appointees.

      The Georgia I’ve seen is racist; and I believe that politicians there apply politics before anything.

      Heck, I know you are not callous! You are not in the least callous, you are very thoughtful. I think you make a good argument here, but my argument is that our government should not play with the lives of human beings. When the government turns around and acts like the street thug, how is that justice?

      For those people who suffer as a result of the unspeakable murder of a loved one, I am truly sorry for them. But, when they turn around and delight in the murder of the accused, there is something wrong with them. To delight in the murder of the suspect via the death penalty is chilling to me. They become no better than the murderer who brought the tragedy upon them.

      Playing God and witnessing murder is very troubling to me….. i understand the need for revenge, but revenge is wrong, too. Our justice system punishes citizens for enacting revenge yet it carries it out…? I just cannot condone murder, period…. it keeps me awake at night and that’s really maddening! 🙂

      Reply

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