Troy Davis: A Martyr in the Struggle to Abolish the Death Penalty

Posted September 25, 2011

by Theresa El-Amin

All of the prayers for Troy Davis have been answered. And the answer is: “Troy Davis is a martyr in the struggle to end the death penalty in Georgia.”

As a veteran of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, I will do all that I can to honor Troy and the millions around the world who worked to save his life. Troy Davis understood that he is not the first innocent man to be killed at the hands of the state. His last words forgave his killers. Can DA Chisolm and the Board of Pardons and Paroles forgive themselves?

Eyewitness testimony is the most unreliable evidence that can be provided. Chisolm said, “There are two Troy Davis cases, the legal case and the public relations case.” Unfortunately, Mr. Chisolm couldn’t see that his “legal” case fell apart years ago when seven of the nine witnesses recanted. Unfortunately, Mr. Chisolm was so bent on winning his case that he ignored the fact that his case disintegrated as the whole world watched.

My condolences to the MacPhail and Davis families. For me, the death of a loved one is a wound that somehow never really goes away. I’ve said to my family, “If I’m murdered and they cut my body up in a thousand pieces, don’t kill them for me.”

I’m convinced that a state should not have the right to take a life. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I shall ask for the abolition of the punishment of death until I have the infallibility of human judgment demonstrated to me.”

The Troy Davis case was fraught with the flaws of human judgment, from the witnesses who testified and recanted, to the DA who refused to acknowledge his case had fallen apart, to the MacPhail family members who believed the Fraternal Order of Police.

The Troy Davis case is over. However, two wrongs have never led to justice. As Francis Bacon said in 1625, “Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.” DA Chisolm, the Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Supreme Court have failed to weed out the revenge that often comes with the killing of a police officer.

It’s now up to the state legislature to create law that will protect us from revenge and move us toward true justice. The state should not kill people to demonstrate that killing people is wrong. The death penalty is “unjust in the much.” Abolition of the death penalty is what I’ll work for the rest of my life.

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Theresa El-Amin is a Solidarity member and organizer in Columbus, Georgia and regional director of the Southern Anti-Racism Network. This article first appeared as a letter to the editor in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.