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.’