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Troy Davis: Justice or Martyrdom?

Ana Abraham

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Twenty years after his conviction for the murder of a police officer in 1989, Troy Davis was executed by the State of Georgia late last Wednesday night.

Over the twenty years Davis spent on death row, he was granted four separate stays of execution. According to ABC news, Davis’ innocence was never proven, but according to some, neither was his guilt.

The issue of capital punishment has long been a catalyst for very heated debates, and Davis’ case is no different. Officer Mark MacPhail was murdered, without a doubt. But ever since the Troy Davis’ murder trial, there has been significant doubt of his guilt. Over the twenty years Davis spent on death row, he was granted four separate stays of execution. According to ABC news, Davis’ innocence was never proven, but according to some, neither was his guilt. This is disturbing, because in America the standard is innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. Many politicians including Jimmy Carter, human rights ministers from other countries and even the Pope himself have expressed their lack of belief in Davis’ guilt, and they helped rally to save his life right up until the end. Former President Carter called personally for clemency, which is a request for mercy for the condemned. At the eleventh hour, however, mercy was denied.

Davis was scheduled to be executed at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday the 21, but the Supreme Court spent an extra few hours debating another stay of execution to allow for the possibility of investigations into Davis’ possible innocence. The Court ended up deciding not to award clemency, and despite a four-hour reprieve, Davis was pronounced dead a few minutes after 11:00 .m.

Until the very end, Davis proclaimed his innocence. He asked for the efforts for his exoneration not to die with him. He also addressed MacPhail’s family, telling them “I’m not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent.” He also asked his family to pray for the men who were about to take his life.

Amnesty International USA is a worldwide human rights campaign, as well as a famous opponent of the death penalty. Often referred to as simply Amnesty, the campaign recently released a statement from Davis’ lawyers. It stated that seven of the nine non-police witnesses from Davis’ trial later recanted their testimonies. Amnesty states that many of these witnesses signed sworn affidavits saying that police coerced their confessions.

Amnesty and opponents of capital punishment everywhere are promising to continue their quest to abolish it completely, as well as find posthumous justice and possibly exoneration for executed people like Troy Davis. And based on public outrage over another execution of another possibly innocent man, they may just be successful.

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The Student News Source of the University of New Haven
Troy Davis: Justice or Martyrdom?