Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Troy Anthony Davis: October 9, 1968-September 21, 2011

Troy Davis was scheduled to be executed at seven p.m. this evening, Atlanta time. In California this was four p.m. and as usually I would be starting a register shift at this hour, I asked to be let off early. The idea of being so fully in the world of commerce at that hour seemed like a big contradiction to me. I didn't know quite where I would go, but after I left, I thought I might walk the labyrinth outside the Episcopalian church as a fitting thing, but I'd forgotten that it was the open market day and it didn't really seem like a very introspective place to be. I then thought I might walk on to the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church nearby, because with it's predominently  black congregation, I thought it might have been the kind of place that Troy might have liked to worship if he'd had the chance. I've often heard some great sounds coming over the fence, but this was a Wednesday afternoon and the place was shut and empty.

I decided to walk on home, as by now I assumed Davis would be dead and I would rather walk home and think about this quietly than ride home on a bus full of students. I didn't really feel that I'd had a significant deep moment, but I thought walking in solitude might go some way towards reaching this goal. My feet aren't the best these days, but I thought it would still be better.

I reached King Street, a street I had walked on this very morning as I usually do, and saw from quite a distance that there was a gigantic crane some ways down and it was at work on a tremendous project. As I got closer, I saw that the crew was busy at work bringing down an enormous tree. People were stopping and watching and taking pictures, and it was a busy intersection with a guy standing in the middle of the street just to direct traffic. I saw a woman that I knew and she said that her daughter lived in the house that had been in its shadow and that it was being taken down because its branches kept knocking out the wires and cutting off people's electricity. We were all impressed by the efficiency of the men high up in the branches. I said, well, I suppose there's some positive side to the tree coming down for the neighbors.

My friend said, "It's a hundred year old tree. Nobody thinks its a good thing."

When I got home, I was surprised to learn that the Supreme Court had asked for an eleventh hour delay in the execution of Troy Davis. I watched events unfold on television. The delay did not result in a stay, and the executioners proved just as efficient as the tree men had. Troy Davis was pronounced dead at 11:08 tonight, still protesting his innocence.


  1. I was home and turned on my computer just when they announced a temporary stay of execution. I felt a little relief, but knew that it might be just that, temporary. I didn't follow it on t.v or even my computer because I was home tonight alone with Olivia and we had plans to do everything together while Liam is away.

    So it wasn't until she fell asleep that I finally turned on my computer and saw the news. I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach.

    "Nobody thinks it's a good idea."


  2. I'd heard about the delay, so, even though you provided the dates in your title, and even though the tree came down, I read your entry still hoping the story might end differently.

  3. A sad day. I don't agree with the death penalty. How can killing ever be the right thing to do? Hugs to you Seana at this sad time. -Janet

  4. I think the moment that possibly unnerved me the most was when after the stay was rejected, someone said very calmly, we have word that the execution is already commencing.

    And the saddest moment was hearing the ex-warden's voice shake as he felt compassion for the people who actually had to perform the task of ending Troy's life. He had done it before himself, and he knew that there would be repercussions for them.

    Kathleeen and Janet, you might want to take a moment to read Julie's post over at her new blog which contains some short yet eloquent jisei, or death poems Japan that she put up in commemoration.

  5. Seana

    I'm afraid that although I feel sorry that a life has been taken by the state in what can only be described as a kind of human sacrifice, I do feel hard to have much sympathy for Troy Davis. This is man who shot a friend in the face, assisted the beating of a homeless man and who murdered an off duty police officer who was trying to save the homeless man's life. After running from the scene, he consistently lied about his role in these events (the police officer's blood on his shorts proves this) to such an extent that he convinced many good people that he was telling the truth. The black jury who convicted him however was not convinced and even the liberal members of the Supreme Court were not convinced. I've read many articles on the Davis case but no one has explained how the police officer's blood and DNA could have gotten onto the shorts that were in Davis's mother's washer/dryer.

    However I'm not sure what putting him to death has achieved. The policeman's wife says it hasn't helped her and although the policeman's mother says it has lifted some of her burden I wonder if she'll feel the same six months or a year from now? I doubt it. Her son will still be dead and nothing's going to bring him back.

  6. I'm not sure arguing with you over whether Troy Davis deserves sympathy or not is really worth our time at this juncture. I feel sympathy and you don't and I doubt much will change either of our stances.

    As to the black shorts, I added this quote from the NAACP at the end of the last post and you may have seen it but I'll
    put it here for the benefits of others:

    "In 2008, the State submitted to the Board a report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) that purportedly showed the presence of blood on a pair of shorts recovered from Davis’ home in the days after the murder. Davis’ attorneys were unaware of the existence of this report. Following the Board’s denial of clemency in 2008, a DNA and serology expert reviewed the full GBI report. The federal court in 2010, after reviewing the new expert analysis, concluded that “the shorts in no way linked Mr. Davis to the murder of Officer MacPhail,” and found that “it is not even clear that the substance was blood.” The court concluded that even if the substance was blood, it “could have belonged to Mr. Davis, Mr. Larry Young, Officer MacPhail, or even [could] have gotten onto the shorts entirely apart from the events of that night.” Therefore, the value of this item as evidence has been thoroughly challenged."

    Although I think you can say that the NAACP has its angle, its interesting that this is what the court concluded.

    I'm not sure that Troy Davis is innocent of course. More might have been pieced together if he had ever had the retrial he consistently said he wanted.

    As I think we have both agreed, commuting the sentence to life with or without the possibility of parole would have been a better solution, and would have saved a lot of people a lot of anguish, including the people who were charged with personally putting him to death.

    Another man also died last night, who's crime wasn't in doubt. Although I abhor the crime, I'll bet news coverage of his death would have exposed similar creaky machinery of the process that would make his death seem equally immoral to a lot of people.

    I liked the piece Rachel Maddow did tonight relating the death penalty to John McCain's position on torture, which is that it is not so much about who the victim of it is as to what it does to the torturer and what it says about us as a people that we condone it.

    I happen to really like the Troy Davis that I knew through letters. He struck me as a simple (not simpleminded, just not intellectual)but big hearted person. If he was an arch conman, so be it. I lost nothing, and nothing is likely to expose him as such to me now.

  7. Seana

    Yes I read that. I also read the various rebuttals. By 2008 it would have been almost impossible to say what the substance was on the shorts but the tests done at the time were clear enough: the substance was officer MacPhail's blood. The jury of course never heard about these shorts but found more than enough evidence to convict Davis.

    Is it possible that Davis wasn't the shooter that night? Yes, of course it's possible, but not I feel, probable.

    Still, I think you're absolutely right about the death penalty. Like torture it debases us as a society. We weren't at war with this man, he was safely in our custody and presented no harm to anyone else. His death represents a defeat for our civilization, not a victory.

  8. You go with the probable then, and I'll go with the possible, which is probably or possibly lik each of us anyway.

    I'm glad we agree about the barbarity of the death penalty.

    Meanwhile there is apparently a one in 22 trillion chance that one of us or one of our friends and family will get hit by some space junk that's falling out of space, so watch the skies.

    It's not probable, but it's possible.