After a long day of emotional goodbyes, Troy Davis knelt in his prison cell and began to pray 15 minutes before he was scheduled to die. Then, a guard spotted him doing something a bit more unexpected: He was sleeping.
The Associated Press obtained documents that provide some insight into the final hours of Troy Davis’ life and they seem to be, in the main, relatively straightforward and somewhat bland, given all of the attention that Davis’ case has received: he met with visitors, he prayed, he slept, he ate a little bit, and he spoke with his attorneys.
What the documents — or perhaps the write-up about them to which I link above — do not adequately highlight is the torturous process of waiting for hours to find out whether or not he would actually be injected full of poison that night or whether his struggle with the legal system would continue. The only hints to this effect can be found in the statement that Davis “spent the next few hours on and off the phone with his lawyer awaiting news on his fate” and that Davis, who previously proclaimed that he would fast on the day of his execution, finally “asked the guards to bring in some food” more than an hour after his execution had been scheduled to take place.
These off-hand notes about Davis’ final hours only hint at something that none of us can really comprehend particularly well: What it must feel like to await official confirmation that your government has succeeded in finding a way to kill you.
In the Name of Troy Davis: Pledge to End the Death Penalty in the United States
Yesterday Troy Davis was laid to rest.
Thousands joined in to celebrate his life at the Jonesville Baptist Church, and tens of thousands more joined online through the webstream. The power of our global community—united to honor, to stand on convictions and to show respect–was palpable inside the church.
There was little talk of sadness, little mention of grief. The Davis family, compelled by their deep faith, chose to celebrate Troy’s spirit, to honor his life, and to continue to move his mission to abolish the death penalty.
Their strength mirrors Troy’s own. Half of his life was spent behind bars, a captive of a system designed to crush even the mightiest of spirits. But Troy never lost hope. He never lost his faith in God or in his higher purpose.
In the execution room, Troy used his last words to proclaim his innocence one final time. He then made a call for his movement—all of our movement—to bring about to end of the death penalty for good. And then, in his final breath, he asked God’s mercy upon those about to kill him.
Even in his darkest hour Troy Davis saw light. In the face of death he showed compassion, resolution and conviction—a bravery that will forever be remembered.
So together, we will honor Troy’s memory and work to end the terror of state sponsored execution. It was a goal of Fredrick Douglass, Ida B Wells, and Thurgood Marshall. And it is a goal that the NAACP will carry forward in the weeks and months ahead.
A punishment reserved almost exclusively for poor people of all colors, and especially for those like Troy who are of color, is not a punishment. It’s the most irreversible and violent act of discrimination, and the ultimate violation of human rights.
The way that each of us can ensure the end of capital punishment comes as soon as possible is to shift from rallies where we shout the slogan I am Troy Davis, to a sustained campaign where we practice the faith of Troy Davis. If our movement is going to be successful, then we must focus on three types of action:
First, we must target the death penalty for elimination in ten more states.
Second, we must approach every sitting District Attorney and candidate for District Attorney and let them know that they will no longer get our votes unless they stop sending people to death row.
Finally, we all must vote. We are more powerful than those who would do wrong in this world. But only through our collective voice will we achieve our goal.
The time has come for us all to come together and finish what our foremothers and forefathers started. We will end the death penalty, and we will do it in honor of Troy Davis.
Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO
PS: If you have not yet signed the petition to end the death penalty of the United States, please do so now, and ask your friends and colleagues to do the same. http://action.naacp.org/EndTheDP
When two Austin filmmakers set out to chronicle the flawed forensics behind the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, they found themselves in the middle of a pitched political battle, pitting criminal justice activists against the a Texas governor (Republican Rick Perry) looking to sweep news of a wrongful execution under the rug. Joe Bailey and Steve Mims chat with MoJo about their new documentary, Incendiary.
It’s 1944, and police escort a 14-year-old boy into the death chamber. He stands just 5’1 and weighs a mere 95 pounds. He is so small in stature that dictionaries need to be stacked on the seat of the electric chair so that when he sits in it his head reaches the height of the electrodes. His chains are loose around his narrow ankles.
This young boy is about to be the youngest person ever to be executed in the history of the United States. Before there was a Troy Davis there was George Junius Stinney, Jr. and the state of South Carolina electrocuted him.
Stinney was accused of murdering two young white girls. They were eleven year-old Betty June Binnicker and 8-year-old Mary Emma Thames.
George Junius Stinney was even part of the search crew and told a bystander simply that he had seen the girls earlier that day. This claim was enough probable cause for the South Carolina police to arrest Stinney for the double murder, even though, the idea of him being strong enough to kill not one but two girls is a stretch. Despite this fact, the police hauled Stinney into the station for hours of intense interrogation, without the presence of either of his parents. Reports claim the police offered Stinney ice cream if he confessed to them that he committed the double murder.
Stinney confessed. There is no written record of his confession in the archives. There is no physical evidence linking Stinney to the murder. There is no paper record of Stinney’s conviction.
The lack of any physical evidence or archived police and court records is the reason South Carolina attorney Steve McKenzie, who detailed Stinney’s story to TheGrio, said he wants to re-open the case of the execution George Junius Stinney, Jr. McKenzie said he believes Stinney was innocent of the murder and with “no investigative notes, no trial transcripts, no written confession, and nothing to indicate guilt,” it is clear Stinney’s trial and subsequent execution were suspicious at best and a miscarriage of justice at worst.
McKenzie hopes Ernest “Chip” Finney, the Claredon County solicitor (the district attorney) in South Carolina, will agree to file a motion to re-open the case by the end of this year. McKenzie says he believes Stinney was an “easy target” and was used as a “scapegoat” by police who wanted to quickly find and punish anyone they could tie to the murders.
Stinney was suspected simply because he mentioned he “saw” the girls earlier in the day. “[Stinney] was a convenient target,” says Mckenzie, but the challenge now is “[h]ow do you exonerate somebody where there is absolutely no evidence one way or the other? There was only a coerced confession. The confession was never written. [It was an] oral confession testified to two white officers and told to an all white male jury.”
This was South Carolina in 1944, with a black male defendant, two young white female victims, and an all white, male jury. Stinney never stood a chance. […]
Last week… we broke through the silence about the horror the death penalty represents. Your work brought about conversations in millions of American households, helping to change hearts and minds about capital punishment.
Now, we must achieve the mission Troy gave each of us.
As Troy Davis — a fellow NAACP activist — said so many times, “This movement began before I was born … it must continue and grow stronger … until we abolish the death penalty once and for all.”
Please take a moment to sign the NAACP pledge to fight for the end of the death penalty in the United States.
September 21, 2011 was a searing moment for all of us. Every failsafe failed.
Current Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm acknowledged that if it were up to him today, he would not try this as a death penalty case. Yet, when he could have acted to stop the execution, he refused to do so.
The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, designed specifically to ensure that executions never happen amidst so much doubt, allowed it to happen anyway.
Justices on the Georgia State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court — men and women who know that our justice system is degraded when we allow someone to be executed even when the former warden of the very prison the inmate is in says there is too much doubt to proceed — cleared the way for the execution to be carried out anyway.
These failures are the result of a system that gives the power of life and death, God-like powers, to humans who are as prone to error and susceptible to bias as any of us.
Human nature won’t change, so the system must. This must never happen again.
I promised Troy that no matter what happened we would keep fighting until the death penalty is abolished. That is the only way we can possibly guarantee our government will never make such a tragic and irrevocable mistake again.
In the past two years, the NAACP and our allies have abolished the death penalty in three states. When we succeed in abolishing it in ten more, we will be in a position to ask the Supreme Court to abolish it entirely. In the meantime, there are effective strategies we can use, in even the most conservative states, to diminish its use greatly.
But we cannot do any of this without your help.
Please take the pledge today, and ask each of your friends to do the same. Help us all carry out Troy Davis’ mission.
Your work has sparked a movement. Let’s keep it going until the job is done. Together, we can ensure that Troy’s death was not in vain and this will never happen again.
Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO
As you know, Troy Davis was executed in Georgia on Wednesday despite worldwide protests and more than 600,000 petition signatures supporting his claim of innocence.
Before his execution, Troy said “I’d like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother, I am innocent.”
Troy told his supporters in a letter, “There are so many more Troy Davises. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this Unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.”
The presidential campaign of Rick Perry is also bringing renewed national attention on the death penalty and in particular on Perry’s record of 236 executions during his term in office. Many media reports have raised the specter of one execution haunting Rick Perry - the wrongful execution of Todd Willingham.
If you are angry about the execution of Troy Davis and if you are concerned about the prospect of Rick Perry becoming president, we urge you to participate in two upcoming events.
The 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 22 at the Texas Capitol in Austin. We expect lots of news media at the march because people around the country are interested in the Rick Perry/Todd Willingham story and on how Perry’s handling of the Willingham case illustrates his character. We will have 20-25 innocent death row exonerees, as well as family members of people still on death row, community leaders, and people opposed to the death penalty from across Texas and the nation.
Special Screening of “Incendiary: the Willingham Case” Oct 5 in Austin to benefit Charlie Baird’s campaign for Travis County District Attorney
We also urge you to join us in supporting Charlie Baird in his campaign for district attorney in Travis County, which is where Austin is located.
Texas Moratorium Network is hosting a screening on Wednesday October 5 at the Violet Crown Cinema in Austin of “Incendiary: the Willingham case” about the case of Todd Willingham. We are hosting it as a fundraiser to benefit the campaign of Charlie Baird for Travis County District Attorney. All proceeds go directly to the campaign of Charlie Baird. Get your tickets now, seating is limited. Charlie Baird needs your support in his race to bring Justice That Works to Austin and Travis County. To learn more about Charlie Baird visit his website www.charliebaird.com.
Charlie Baird is the judge who held a hearing on whether Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed. The hearing was stopped by a higher court before Judge Baird could rule. Now, Judge Baird is running for DA in Austin and he needs our help. Buy a ticket to this screening and you will be helping Charlie raise funds for his race to become DA in Austin. You will be able to meet the filmmakers Steve Mims and Joe Bailey Jr, plus Charlie Baird will be at the screening and reception.
Hours before Troy Davis was executed, Charlie Baird wrote on Facebook: “I stand in solidarity with Troy Davis and his many supporters today in Georgia. Our justice system—and the citizens upon whose behalf justice is administered—must demand better when it comes to eye witness testimony (as it does in this case), forensic evidence, etc. The NAACP is inviting people to stand in solidarity with Troy Davis, and I hope you’ll join”.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have at least one DA in Texas who will listen to us and who will value our input, instead of ones who ignore us like the one in Georgia who ignored the pleas to stop the execution of Troy Davis.
To buy tickets to the screening, please click here. Ticket prices start at $25 and go up. If you can afford it, please consider buying a ticket package for $100, which will help us raise a good amount of funds to help Charlie’s campaign. If you can not attend because you don’t live in Austin, you can still buy tickets and then donate them back to us to give to people who can not afford to buy a ticket right now.
Eugene Robinson writes:
There was a chilling moment in a recent GOP candidates’ debate when Texas Gov. Rick Perry was asked about having authorized 234 executions, more than any other governor in modern U.S. history. The crowd, drawn largely from Tea Party ranks, cheered this record as if it were a great accomplishment. “I’ve never struggled with that at all,” Perry said, referring to execution as “the ultimate justice.” But he should struggle with it. We all should.