Last night the world sat silently holding its breath as it once again waited to hear whether Georgia would be allowed to kill Troy Anthony Davis. Troy’s case, unlike most death row inmates, received international attention, extensive media coverage, and celebrity awareness. In fact, the hashtags #TroyDavis and #TooMuchDoubt were tweeted by over fifty thousand people in the days leading up to Troy’s execution.
After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to issue a stay on Troy’s behalf, prison officials moved quickly to execute Troy within the night. Troy’s last statement proclaimed his innocence and urged the family members of the victim’s family to continue to seek the truth. In a letter to his supporters, Troy stated “this movement began before I was born, it must continue and grow stronger until we abolish the death penalty.”
As we move forward and begin to digest the truth of what happened in Georgia tonight, the truth that the state killed a man without proof of his guilt, it’s important to channel Troy’s incredible strength and spirit.
Last summer I stood outside the Georgia prison during Melbert Ray Ford’s execution. There were fewer then ten of us standing in the dust singing “We Shall Overcome.” Last night that same lawn was filled with hundreds of people protesting Troy’s execution. Troy’s case has brought together people who may otherwise never have bothered to pay attention to an execution – and his murder has opened the eyes of even those who support the death penalty to the harsh reality of our failed justice system.
While expecting total abolition immediately may not be possible in every state yet, several states do have bills regarding heightened requirements for admissibility of eyewitness testimony or changes to state evidentiary codes. It is unclear what other effects last night’s execution will have on the future of the death penalty, but it is clear that Troy Davis did not die in vain.