The state judicial murder of Troy Davis of Georgia showed both the limits and the successes of the anti-death penalty movement. It seems silly to speak of successes when an innocent man is poisoned to death by judicial decree, but though they were partial, they were successes nonetheless.
To attain the support of people like former U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Arch-bishop Desmond Tutu and former FBI director William Sessions was no small feat. It showed the reach of the movement to procure such prestigious support. The movement was also fueled by such revelations as shown by the recantations of people like Antoine Williams, who was one of the state’s trial witnesses. Williams later stated, “After the officers talked to me, they gave me a statement and told me to sign it. I signed it.
I did not read it because I cannot read. I felt pressured to point at him.” Was there police coercion in the Davis case? The DA certainly thought so, as shown by his remark, “Oh, well, they were probably coerced by the defense too, so that balances it out and we should still kill him.” Think about that. What power of coercion does the defense possess? Handcuffs? Threats? Jail cells? Criminal charges? Death sentences? That any prosecutor can say something so dopey is well, – nuts.
The Troy Davis movement amassed almost a million signatures on petitions. Remarkable. But signatures on paper (or online) aren’t people in the streets. If a million people were on the march, maybe–maybe–he would be alive.
For one of the other limits are those imposed by the law, one designed to lock in and prevent serious judicial review and remedy. Laws signed into the books by none other than the first so- called Black president: William Jefferson Clinton. Troy Davis’s family and supporters brought much to the anti-death penalty movement.
I hope they are not too discouraged to continue the struggle. In so doing, they can insure that Troy Davis will never be forgotten.