New Internationalist

Troy Davis: a legal lynching

Picture by World Coalition Against the Death Penalty under a Wikimedia Commons Licence.

A man has been on ‘death row’ for twenty-two years.  He was found guilty of killing a law enforcement official loyal to the state. The weapon used was never found. There is no physical evidence, no DNA evidence, and seven of the nine original witnesses later withdraw their statements after admitting to being coerced by the police. One of the remaining two has remained silent for two decades. The other is suspected by many of committing the crime himself. Despite everything, the black man on death row is executed, murdered, by a cocktail of lethal drugs.

It could be an extract from a fictitious dystopian novel. In fact, this is the United States, in the year 2011. The latest victim of the death penalty is Troy Davis, put to death at 11.08 pm, on 21 September, in Georgia Diagnostic and Statistics prison.  There is no point in disguising Davis’ execution as anything other than what it was: a legalized lynching.

Unless, of course, you want to pretend that the colour of Davis’ skin played no part in his death. Or if you want to pretend that the United States, willingly bombing brown people from Libya to Pakistan to Somalia, treats its own brown and black citizens with dignity and respect.

As campaigners yesterday battled to have Troy Davis’ execution overturned, Barack Obama was busy taking the podium at the United Nations. ‘We have banned those who abuse human rights from travelling to our country,’ he said in his address. ‘We sanction those who abuse human rights abroad, and we will always serve as a voice for those who have been silenced.’

That evening, it was the anaesthesia pumped into his veins, the muscle relaxant administered to end his breathing, and the potassium chloride to stop his heart that silenced the voice of Troy Davis. On September 11, a message written by Davis the day before, and addressed ‘To All’, was posted online.

‘No matter what happens in the days, weeks to come,’ Davis wrote, ‘this movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated.’

Yesterday was the fourth time an execution date had been set for Troy Davis. On previous occasions, he had been granted a stay of three days, one day, and on one occasion, just 90 minutes before he was due to die. Psychiatrists who work with death row inmates have said that such repeated exposure to expected death is tantamount to torture. This time, not in occupied foreign territories such as Guantanamo Bay, or sub-contracted to friendly dictators through ‘extraordinary rendition,’ but lawfully carried out in the United States.

The death penalty simply serves as another tool at the disposal of the racist, supremacist ideology of the US, and Troy Davis is its latest victim. But, as Davis himself wrote, he is not the only one.

‘There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city, state by state and country by country.’

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  1. #1 Tom 22 Sep 11

    Sorry Jody, but Troy davis was tried before a jury of 7 African Americans, and 5 whites. There were also 2 testimonials that attested to Troy Davis murdering McPhail. If you call this legal lynching then you should blame the society and not the legal system, because the people who are accountable for his death are the judge and jury. Troy Davis was also charged with another shooting where the same exact make of bullet casings were found.

  2. #2 della leslie 22 Sep 11

    where ever it is, where ever there is even the smallest doubt, if a young lad in Iran is hung,or a man in the USA is killed by lethal injection, it can only be called murder. to kill anyone and say that it is in the name of justice is not only deceitful but barbaric. As a race how can we ever hope to go forward and become better if we still use 'the law' to commit murder? how does that make us better than the ones who actually commit murder? after such torture as was dealt out to Troy Davis over the years on death row, how can we ever condemn others for dealing out any form of torture? Maybe he was guilty, maybe he was not, where there is a doubt he is bound to be not guilty, at least of murder.

  3. #3 Peace Activist 23 Sep 11

    Whilst I do not know if Troy Davis was guilty of this or any other crime; It would seem the State has failed to prove his Guilt. No one should be executed or imprisoned without their guilt being proved first. Many do not get a trial at all.

  4. #4 Charlotte 24 Sep 11

    Not only is the death penalty infantile and antiquated, it's also just inhumane. Somalia and China are also big fans of the death penalty... There is absolutely no difference between the murder that Troy Davis may (or probably not) have committed, and the murder that the Georgia state government just committed, but somehow the latter gets called ’ultimate justice’ (thanks Rick Perry). The guilt of the accused is incedental (and in this case highly questionable). You can't kill someone and somehow assume that justice was served, particularly someone who had been incarcerated for the better part of the last twenty years and clearly was of no harm to society. Theres a reason that they have several guards administer the injection so none of them know who actually gave the lethal one, no one wants to know that they're a murderer.

  5. #5 Free Reggie 29 Sep 11

    Such a miscarriage of justice. Reggie Clemons out of St. Louis, MO is also on Death Row, He has a hearing coming up March 5, 2012. The twist in this case is that the charges that were used to convict him of murder were later dropped but he is still sitting on death row. This his 20th year.

    You can learn more about the case at:

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About the author

Jody McIntyre a New Internationalist contributor

Jody McIntyre is a writer, poet, political activist and founder of The Equality Movement. He blogs at Life on Wheels.

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