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State of Georgia Killing An Innocent Man?

By Jesse Muhammad -Staff writer- | Last updated: Sep 21, 2011 - 11:28:45 PM

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The Troy Davis case shows how a man could die for a crime he did not commit, say advocates

FINALCALL.COM BREAKING UPDATES:

  • Update (9/21/11 @ 10:08pm CST) Troy Davis was executed by lethal injection in Jackson, GA.

  • Update (9/21/11 @ 3:00PM CST) Minister Farrakhan releases statement on pending Troy Davis execution -Read statement here
  • Update (9/21/11 @ 11:15am CST) Troy Davis' request to take a polygraph before his execution has been denied and the parole board rejected a last-minute appeal by his attorneys.
  • Update (9/20/11 @ 10:40pm CST) Per a text message sent to The Final Call from Martina Correia, the sister of Troy Davis, he sends the following message to supporters: "This struggle did not start with me and this movement should not end with me".
  • Update (9/20/11 @ 905pm CST) According to an email sent out by the NAACP, Troy Davis will refuse to have a last meal because he has faith that his life will be spared.  Read more @ http://ow.ly/6Abso
  • Update (9/20/11) Per Martina Correia, the sister of Troy Davis, the Georgia Board of Pardon and Paroles has denied clemency for Troy Davis.

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Supporters of Troy Davis gathered outside Harris County Jailhouse in downtown Houston on Sept. 16 for the Global Day of Action. Supporters of Troy Davis gathered outside Harris County Jailhouse in downtown Houston on Sept. 16 for the Global Day of Action. Photo: Gloria Rubac
(FinalCall.com) - Martina Correia and her family have been down this road before. Her brother, Troy Davis, is staring death in the face once again and surprisingly calm in the midst of what could be his last days of life.

“There is too much doubt in my brother's case but they still want to execute him. Troy isn't stressing at all. He talked to me this morning and said he's prayed up and feels comfortable about it all,” Ms. Correia told The Final Call in an interview on Sept. 19.

On that same day, at Final Call press time, the 42-year-old Mr. Davis and his legal team had entered into a hearing in Atlanta with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to advocate clemency for him. Supporters of Mr. Davis camped out all night outside the state facility.

“We have to present our best from our legal team. We're praying for a positive outcome. Troy and family thanks everyone for their support. Let's not stop. Keep pushing,” said Ms. Correia. Due to just being released from the hospital, Ms. Correia said her son, Dejuan Correia, along with her sister Kimberly Davis, would be testifying at the clemency hearing on behalf of the family.

“The parole board is now only allowing two members from the family to attend but it is really unethical how the Fraternal Order of Police Officers is allowed to show up for every hearing,” she said.

The parole board was reportedly expected to hear from witnesses who did not testify at prior hearings while Mr. Davis' attorneys were expected to submit sworn statements from at least three jurors who sentenced Mr. Davis to death, but who are now calling for his life to be spared.

Mr. Davis was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail. The parole board has the authority to commute a death sentence to life without parole or deny clemency.

Mr. Davis is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia, where he has been an inmate for over 20 years.

Anneliese MacPhail, the mother of the deceased officer, told CNN, “I will never have closure. But I may have some peace when he is executed.”

“We want to see the execution called off. When there is so much doubt about the guilt, the (parole) board must stop the execution. If they commute it to life in prison then further efforts can take place,” Brian Evans of Amnesty International USA told The Final Call.

Mr. Evans serves as a Death Penalty Abolition campaigner at Amnesty International USA's regional offices in Washington, D.C. The group has been helping to lead online and street canvassing efforts in support of Mr. Davis. They firmly believe the death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights.

“If they execute Troy Davis, it will show that our system is not concerned with doing the right thing. If they execute him it will further undermine this criminal justice system and further weaken the people's confidence in the system. But we're hoping for the best,” said Mr. Evans.

At least 51 members of Congress have joined the voices calling for Mr. Davis to not be executed. Advocates include the Pope of Rome, South African anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who also served as governor of Georgia.

In a letter to James E. Donald, chairman of the parole board, the U.S. lawmakers wrote, “It is clear now that the doubts plaguing Davis's case can never be adequately addressed; the lack of scientific or relevant physical evidence has made it impossible to resolve with any degree of certainty. Over the last four years, the inability of our courts to resolve these uncertainties has shaken public confidence in our judicial system, and an execution under such a cloud of doubt would do nothing but further undermine that confidence. Public faith in the integrity of justice in Georgia is at stake and it is for this reason that we urge you to grant clemency to Troy Davis.”

“The Holy Qur'an says you should not take any soul unjustly. It's a grave injustice for the United States, which is rooted in White supremacy and racism, to put to death anyone. Especially when America's educational system has produced the ills that we see in society. This system is not rooted in God,” said Abdullah Muhammad, the N.O.I. National Prison Reform Student Minister.

“This is a case that, whether you support the death penalty or you oppose it, should make you stop dead in your tracks,” said Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, in an interview with Democracy Now!

“But with regard to the Board of Pardons and Parole, we just need them to recognize that there is doubt, that this is an exceptional case, and they should do the exceptional thing and spare his life,” said Mr. Jealous. “It's been activism that has kept Troy alive to this point.”

“You have a conviction based on nine eyewitnesses, seven of whom have since recanted or changed their story. No DNA evidence, no physical evidence, and you're going to take a man's life?” said Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been discussing the case on his new MSNBC show.

“In this case the US judicial system has failed to establish Mr. Davis' guilt beyond reasonable doubt. To execute him under these circumstances would be an appalling miscarriage of justice,” wrote human rights activist Bianca Jaggar, in a letter sent also to the parole board chairman.

“The murderer of Officer MacPhail must be brought to justice. However, justice will not be served by executing Troy Davis,” said Ms. Jaggar.

From petitions to global street pavements

On Friday, Sept. 16, a Global Day of Action was declared as thousands marched in solidarity in Atlanta with signs reading “Too Much Doubt” and chanting “Free Troy Davis!” A rally was then held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the famous religious house where the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached.

“Every time Troy is given an execution date, more people look at his case and see there is too much doubt,” said Mr. Evans.

Thousands of supporters also hosted simultaneous events on that day in other parts of the country including California, Colorado, Arizona, Alabama, Vermont and Hawaii. Events were also organized overseas in Peru, London and Hong Kong.

The Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, the Green Party, the National Black United Front, the NAACP, the Nation of Islam and others united for a rally outside the Harris County courthouse in downtown Houston.

“We in Texas know how witnesses can be coerced to convict innocent people. It happens in Harris County and in Texas too often. Jailhouse snitches testified against Todd Willingham and we

now know that he was an innocent man executed by Gov. Rick Perry. Troy Davis' case cries out for relief,” said organizers with the Abolition Movement.

“No matter if it is in Georgia or Texas, it is better to be rich and guilty than it is to be poor and innocent in America. The case of Troy Davis is showing this country that her system has failed,” said N.O.I. Student Minister Robert Muhammad.

Robert Muhammad served as the spiritual advisor and witness to the executions of Texas death row inmates O'Dell Barnes (executed, March 1, 2000) and Shaka Sankofa, a.k.a. Gary Graham (executed, June 22, 2000). Both cases drew international attention. “There was always a glimmer of hope that the state would come to their senses but they eventually executed Shaka Sankofa and O'Dell Barnes. The outcry of the world for Troy Davis should not be ignored,” said Robert Muhammad.

“How could we sit here in Houston, in the death house, that's sending more people to the death row than any other place in the world here at Harris County, and not represent for Troy Davis? Who are they to have the moral authority to put anyone to death?” asked Kofi Taharka, national chairman of the National Black United Front.

Additionally, Amnesty International, the NAACP, Change.org, ColorOfChange.Org and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are continuing to circulate online petitions and posting action items on Facebook and Twitter.

On Sept. 15, Amnesty International delivered 650,000 petition signatures to the parole board and since has reached nearly one million signatures. Supporters have been flooding the parole board (404-656-5651) and Georgia Governor Nathan Deal with phone calls (404-656-1776), e-mails and faxes daily to demand clemency.

Many other notable activists, music artists and celebrities such as John Legend, OutKast's Big Boi, Cee-Lo Green, Russell Simmons, Free, and Harry Belafonte have also expressed support for Mr. Davis' plight. Jasiri X released a hip-hop video on YouTube titled “I Am Troy Davis” that has had thousands of views.

Too much doubt

Witnesses claimed Mr. Davis, who was then 19-years-old, and two others were bothering a homeless man in 1989 in the parking lot of a Burger King restaurant. Mr. MacPhail, who was off duty, arrived to help the man and witnesses testified at trial that Mr. Davis unloaded two shots at Mr. MacPhail and fled the scene of the crime.


Rapper Jasiri X uses Pete Rock's classic beat, "They Reminisce Over You" to shed light on the case of Troy Davis. Track: "I Am Troy Davis (T.R.O.Y.)"
Since Mr. Davis' conviction, seven out of the nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony and no physical evidence has been presented that links Mr. Davis to the murder. No murder weapon was found.

One of the star witnesses in the case, Darrell Collins, later told news networks, “I told them (police) over and over I did not see this happen. They put what they wanted to put in that statement.” Brenda Forrest, one of the jurors in the trial who found Mr. Davis guilty, has since changed her mind. “If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row. The verdict would be not guilty,” she told a Savannah news station in 2009.

Since 2007, the state of Georgia has scheduled Mr. Davis for execution three times only to have the executions postponed. In 2009, the Supreme Court ordered the federal court in Savannah to hear Mr. Davis' innocence claim in an evidentiary hearing. In 2010, U.S. District Court Judge William Moore heard testimonies and ruled that Mr. Davis' defense team failed to adequately prove his innocence.

Mr. Davis' last appeal was fi led in January of this year but was denied in March by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This fight is not only for Troy Davis. This is for the Troy Davises that came before him and for the Troy Davises that are actually going to come after him. We're all fighting for one cause and that cause is justice,” said Kimberly Davis in a video message to supporters.

“This system is not about reform. We want freedom for Troy Davis. As stated in The Muslim Program, we want freedom for all Black men and women now under death sentence in innumerable prisons in the North as well as the South,” added Abdullah Muhammad, who heads the Nation of Islam Prison Reform Ministry.

Related news:

Supreme Court rejects appeal of death row inmate Troy Davis  (FCN, 04-17-2011)

Fight of lifetime for Troy Davis  (FCN, 11-04-2008)

Neo-slavery rises in Georgia's criminal justice system?  (FCN, 06-30-2011)

Leaders convinced of Troy Davis' innocence  (FCN, 06-25-2009)

Fight of lifetime for Troy Davis (FCN, 11-04-2008)

American Jim Crow injustice in the state of Georgia  (FCN, 07-01-2007)

Justicefor Kenneth Walker: Brutally shot down by Georgia police  (FCN,01-26-2005)

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