I am Troy Davis!

…and so are you. So is everyone. We are ALL Troy Davis. It’s along the same lines as ‘I am Spartacus’ (if you’re a Kirk Douglas fan) or ‘I am Brian’ (if you prefer the Monty Python angle). A kind of ‘one for all and all for one’ pledge of friendship and comradeship. But with a vital difference; and vital is the pivotal word. Troy Davis will NOT be allowed to die. Troy Davis has paid more than enough for a crime he did not commit; twenty years on Georgia’s Death Row and 3 near-executions attest to that. If Troy’s forthcoming hearing fails and he is subsequently murdered by the State, then truth, justice and a piece of all of us will have died alongside him. It is an unspeakably fragile relief then, that through the undinting campaigning efforts of his sister and other supporters, and with death-penalty-qualified pro bono legal help finally onside, Troy now has a chance to contest not just the evidence against him, but effectively to set a precedent which could challenge American constitutional law.

‘Where is the Justice for Me?’ : An evening with Martina Davis-Correia in London


November 25th 2009, the eve of Thanksgiving, and once again I 
was back at the Amnesty Human Rights Action Centre in London, this time to hear from Martina Correia, whose brother Troy Davis has spent the last 20 years facing execution for the murder of Police officer Mark Allen McPhail in 1989. Accompanying Martina, were her son, Troy’s 15-year-old nephew, De’Jaun, and 
Richard Hughes, drummer with top UK band Keane. Richard, a long-time human rights supporter has been campaigning publicly on behalf of Troy and earlier this year, travelled to the United States to visit Troy in prison along with a small delegation from the UK including Amnesty’s Kim Manning-Cooper and UK

Keane drummer Richard Hughes outside the WhiteHouse

Photo: Jesse Quin
parliamentary representative Alistair Carmichael MP. It was good to have Richard tell us a little of his visit, and to introduce Martina and De’Jaun. The story which resonates with me from Richard’s retelling, is the story of Troy getting to walk on grass for the first time in over 15 years, shortly before his last sickeningly close stay of execution in 2008. Just seeing a blade of grass, let alone touching one, is a minor miracle. You can hardly imagine, can you, how that must feel? As Richard says in his article in the Amnesty magazine (November/December 2009 issue), one of the debilitating facets of life imprisonment (and there are many, so many cruelties and barbarisms associated with Death Row – but that again is another blogpost-in-waiting), is that after years of walking only on concrete, prisoners’ knees start to fail. 
There is much background available describing the progress of Troy’s case, and the groundbreaking evidence of 7 out of 9 recantations of eyewitness testimony, plus 9 new instances of evidence against the real primary suspect for the murder. There’s a wealth of material around this case that I could include in this post, but I won’t. Just search online: there are a host of websites set up to campaign for Troy and support his family and seek his reprieve. ‘Innocence Matters’ is a slogan heard repeatedly and determinedly in connection with Troy’s case. For Martina, and for Troy, it is one thing for the courts to award him freedom on the grounds of technical innocence: what really needs to happen is for an outcome of actual innocence be granted to the man. It makes me ponder the validity of the word ‘pardon’. Surely the granting of a pardon implies the convicted person actually did something wrong and is being forgiven for it? In this case, as with many other proven and suspected miscarriages of justice so callously enacted by the State (and I refer to Britain’s past as well here, alongside all nations who have at some time sanctioned capital punishment), it is the State who owes an apology to the exoneree, not the other way round. The pardon should be granted by the individual to the Courts and the system which by a failure of the legal process has denied justice, not only to the wronged convict, but to the family of the victim too. This was a point which Martina made repeatedly, as did Richard: Troy’s case is as much about the disrespect paid to Officer McPhail’s memory and to his family as it is to the Davises. How can they ever attain any kind of peace or respite from what happened until the true villain is brought to justice?
We also heard on Wednesday from Troy’s nephew, De’Jaun, an amazingly charismatic and confident young man, who has previously addressed an audience of several thousand at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The film clip that Amnesty played of that speech brought tears to several people’s eyes and yes, I was there also, rummaging for my tissue and surreptitiously wiping away my tears. De’Jaun, or ‘Dada’ as the gang affectionately call him, has experienced a lifetime of prison visits, and is the epitome of a well-adjusted young man, who told us with awe, about his Uncle Troy’s words of guiding wisdom which have encouraged him to work hard and behave well.
Here’s a photograph of me with Martina and De’Jaun.
The highlight of the evening for me though has to be the phone call that Amnesty’s Kim Manning-Cooper arranged while the guests were still milling around and speaking with Martina, De’Jaun and Richard. Later on, with only a handful of people still in the building, we eventually heard from Troy himself, on the other end of a phone line in Georgia, and were able to shout hello and let him know we were all rooting for him. A moment of magic – especially for me, who have yet to hear the voice of my penfriend far away in his own concrete box. I hope that will happen one day soon.
And the upshot of the evening, my friends: can there be any more compelling case against the death penalty than the risk of executing an innocent man? 

November 30, 2009 - Posted by | Amnesty, De'Jaun Correia, death penalty, Georgia, innocence, Keane, Martina Correia, Richard Hughes, Troy Davis

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