By Chris G.
As I sat down to write this blog post at roughly 7:00 p.m. on September 21, 2011, it sadly was all too easy and apparent what the focus should be. Not to point fingers, but if nothing rang a bell, you’re either living under a rock, or you’re already way too consumed in briefing cases and prepping for class, but regardless, I won’t hold it against you. This story concerns no film, no reality TV show, and definitely has nothing to do with Charlie Sheen. Rather it is the story of Troy Davis, a man whose life, and oncoming death, are now controlled by the hand (and sadly, the needle) of the United States legal system.
On the night of August 18, 1989, a scuffle broke out between a group of individuals near a Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Georgia, that would forever change the lives of two men. One man was a police officer by the name of Mark MacPhail, a guy who was simply doing his job, working security at the neighboring Burger King; the other man was supposedly 20 year old Troy Davis. When Officer MacPhail saw a fight break out, he looked to intervene, and was sadly shot twice, once in the face and once in the chest, by a man witnesses described as “wearing a white shirt.” Witnesses put Troy Davis at the scene, and by November 1989, a grand jury indicted Mr. Davis for the murder of Officer MacPhail. On August 30, 1991, Troy Davis was sentenced to death. But who were these witnesses? And more importantly, did their testimony give the prosecution and the jury enough evidence to sentence a man to death?
Fast forward to now, more than twenty years and three execution dates have passed, and once again Troy Davis still faces the dark cloud of death. But one may wonder, why all this time and delayed executions? Well, it can certainly stem from the fact that seven of the nine witnesses against Troy Davis have either recanted or changed their statements. Or, the fact that this case has been marred by inconsistent witness statement, police coercion, a lack of physical evidence, and subsequently, major doubt as to whether Mr. Davis committed the crime. These strong sentiments of doubt aren’t just from his family members, but rather some of the world’s most notable figures, from former president Jimmy Carter, to the former head of the FBI William Sessions, to Pope Benedict XVI. Yes, even the Pope is watching, and you should be too. In a case shrouded by doubt, mystery, and a lack of hard facts, a man is at the verge of execution, but did he even really do it? With so many inconsistencies, a reasonable person might question how the United States could execute a man like Troy Davis, but then again, a reasonable man isn’t expected to save a drowning stranger, so who knows what is reasonable anymore.