Troy Anthony Davis could be my father.
One of us.
And I am sorely reminded of this as the hours, the minutes, the seconds tick closer to 7 p.m., when Davis, found guilty in the murder of an off-duty Savannah, GA, police officer 22 years ago, will have his veins injected with a lethal cocktail of execution drugs as punishment for the death of Officer Mark MacPhail, despite evidence that strongly suggests Davis may not have killed him.
I won’t rehash the particulars in the Troy Davis case by now, those of us who pay attention to such things can recite them by rote: 7 or 9 witnesses recanted or contradicted their original testimony; there is no DNA evidence or murder weapon to tie Davis to the slaying; the guy who fingered Davis is believed to have been the triggerman; the Pope, former president Jimmy Carter, the NAACP, Amnesty International and Bishop Desmond Tutu have pleaded for Davis’ life. What deserves to be shouted from the mountaintops, though, is that the land of the free, the home of the brave this country of resolute righteousness when it comes to human rights in everyone else’s backyard is about to soil its hands with the blood of a man who may be innocent.
As my friend Kevin Powell wrote so eloquently in his Huffington Post piece, Why Are We Killing Troy Davis?, anyone who is either a person of color or related to one by blood or heart, should be very clear on this one true thing: Davis’ execution is a travesty for him and his family and a threat to us all. In his piece, Kevin acknowledges that his childhood of poverty, a single mother, an absent father, and violence and great economic despair could have easily translated into him becoming one of the many black or Latino males languishing in jail for making bad choices or simply being around those who made them could have easily led to him finding himself in Troy Davis’s shoes.
So I cannot simply view the Troy Davis case and execution as solely about the killing of Officer MacPhail. Yes, an injustice was done, a killing occurred, and I pray the truth really comes out one day.
But I am just as concerned about America’s soul, of the morality tales we are text-messaging to ourselves, to the world, as we move Troy Davis from his cell one last time, to that room where a needle will blast death into his veins, suck the air from his throat, snatch life from his eyes.
Now two men will be dead, Officer MacPhail and Troy Davis, linked, forever, by the misfortune of our confusion, stereotypes, finger-pointing, and history of passing judgment without having every shred of the facts. I am Officer MacPhail, I am Troy Davis, and so are you. And you. And you, too.
I’ll tell you this much: Over the years, I’ve wrestled with my feelings on the death penalty. On its face, it’s always made sense to me: You kill someone, a jury finds you guilty, your crime is heinous enough to warrant the death penalty, you get what you got coming to you. This is certainly how my heart is led when I consider what I’d want if someone took the life of someone I love.
But then my brain takes over when I consider America’s dark history of lynching, mutilating and murdering African American fathers, sons, mothers and daughters all-too-many times for no other reason than because the accused was black and the accusers reveled in the killing. Evidence of wrongdoing was inconsequential. Emmit Till. The Scottsboro Boys. The Brothers Griffin. Those are the names we know. Scores more, we don’t. But their deaths sear my soul.
And the death of Troy Davis will, too.
Because the case against him is refutable.
And this just feels wrong.
Particularly when our country continues to use the death penalty to mete out justice. If we are to continue to do so, the very least “the system” should do is make sure that the case is ironclad before it takes irreversible action.
And as a resident of the state of Georgia where Troy Davis will be put to death tonight as a black wife, mother, daughter and sister, as a human being, I do not want this man killed in my name.
God bless the McPhail family, the Davis family and Troy Anthony Davis, too. They will reminisce over you, my God.