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The execution of Troy Davis

September 22, 2011

by Kate Randall

Troy Davis supporters Mercedes Binns and Vizion Jones mourn at the terrible news of his execution. – Photo: Stephen Morton, AP
The world looked on in horror Wednesday night as death row inmate Troy Davis was executed by lethal injection at the state prison near Jackson, Georgia.

The state-sanctioned murder was the final grisly episode in a judicial travesty that spanned more than two decades. It stands as a damning indictment of the entire political system and a shameful episode in the history of the United States.

The death of Davis was ensured after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal for a stay at about 10:20 p.m. At 10:53, a sedative was injected into his veins, rendering him unconscious. A second injection paralyzed all muscles, causing suffocation. The final injection induced a massive heart attack, causing death at 11:08 p.m.

The barbarism of the process reached its epitome Wednesday night. In the hours before the lethal concoction was delivered, originally scheduled for 7:00 p.m., Davis remained strapped to the gurney while the high court deliberated. Family members and supporters stood in agony outside prison walls, waiting for news. The ruling came in the form of a one-line denial, without explanation or dissent.

Troy Davis in happier days before he was sent to death row at age 22
It would have taken only five justices’ votes to stop the killing going forward. In the end, even this temporary measure was rejected by the black-robed executioners.

Peaceful protesters outside the prison, at one point numbering in the thousands, were surrounded by hundreds of police officers, some decked out in riot gear, while helicopters circled overhead. Earlier in the evening several demonstrators who crossed the road running past the prison were arrested and taken away.

Davis issued a written statement before his execution, which read: “The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me.”

“The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me.”

His case had attracted the attention of millions of people throughout the country and around the world. A petition urging clemency was signed by over a million people. His senseless and needless murder without doubt struck something deep within the public psyche – something that will not be forgotten and will serve to further discredit and undermine a barbaric, relentless and remorseless system.

A few hours prior to the execution, Troy’s best known champion, his older sister Martina, surrounded by their family and supporters who included NAACP President Ben Jealous, spoke to the press. – Photo: Democracy Now
The American political establishment for the most part reacted with indifference. Particularly noteworthy was the cowardly silence of President Barack Obama, who refused to intervene in the case. Press Secretary Jay Carney stated blithely Wednesday that the president had “worked to ensure accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system,” but that he would not weigh in on Davis’ case because it was a “state prosecution.”

Obama is on record supporting the death penalty, a practice banned by the vast majority of industrialized nations.

This is of a piece with the policies of the entire political establishment in America – Democratic and Republican – which condones targeted assassinations, torture, secret prisons and the right to subjugate sovereign nations through the use of air strikes, invasions and occupations.

Just days before Troy Davis was injected with lethal chemicals, Obama spoke before the United Nations, hailing the imperialist war against Libya as a great victory for democracy.

Wednesday’s execution was the fourth and final appointment with death faced by Davis, a man who has spent 20 years on death row protesting his innocence. His execution had been scheduled on three previous occasions, two of these halted within only hours of the planned injection.

Since Davis’ arrest in connection with the killing of off-duty police officer Mark McPhail in 1989, authorities at every level of the state have carried out an assault on his basic rights. The legal case has been marred by prosecutorial misconduct, denial of due process and discrimination.

Troy Davis supporters hold vigil outside the prison. – Photo: Democracy Now
There is a great deal of evidence that points to Troy Davis’ innocence. But the state parole board denied him clemency Tuesday despite the fact that seven out of nine witnesses in his trial recanted their testimony, citing police intimidation, and jurors publicly repudiated their opinions.

Davis was not provided with legal representation during the state appeals process. A federal district judge acknowledged that even though the recantations of key witnesses cast doubt on Davis’ conviction, he was not granted a new trial. On the day of his execution, prison officials refused the condemned man’s request to undergo a polygraph test to prove his innocence.

The legal lynching of Troy Davis brings into focus the remorseless brutality of American society in the 21st century. He was one of the estimated 3,251 prisoners who languish on death rows across the United States and the 35th person to be executed in 2011.

The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, both in numbers and as a percentage of population. The latest figures available show some 2.3 million people incarcerated, a rate of about 750 prisoners for every 100,000 U.S. residents. The nation’s prisons are also disproportionately filled with members of racial and ethnic minorities.

Troy Davis, an African-American, was 22 years old at the time of his trial. Cases similar to his are played out every day in police stations and courtrooms across the U.S. As of 2009, one in 10 Black males aged 25-29 was in prison or jail.

No doubt one factor behind the high court’s decision not to intervene in the end was concern that raising questions about the justice of Davis’ execution would cast doubt upon the entire system of state repression in the United States.

The backdrop to this apparatus is a society plagued by poverty and a growing chasm between the vast majority of the people and a small, obscenely wealthy elite. Some 26 million Americans are jobless, with more than 6 million in the ranks of the long-term unemployed. While corporate profits and CEO salaries continue to soar, there are no government programs to address the jobs crisis or the accompanying scourges of poverty, hunger, homelessness and the lack of decent education or medical care for tens of millions.

No doubt one factor behind the high court’s decision not to intervene in the end was concern that raising questions about the justice of Davis’ execution would cast doubt upon the entire system of state repression in the United States.

The legal murder of Troy Davis underscores the fact that there is no constituency within the American political establishment for basic principles of democracy. An end to the cruel and sadistic practice of capital punishment, along with the defense of democratic rights in general, depends on the development of an independent political, socialist movement of the working class.

This story first appeared on the World Socialist Web Site.

Democracy Now broadcast Sept. 22, 2011

13 thoughts on “The execution of Troy Davis

  1. guest

    Good bye to a police officer KILLER- I hope he rots in hell for what the "BRO" did and those of you that disagree with me can go to hell too!!

    1. Ben

      If their was actually enough evidence to establish that he was the killer, it would be another question. But it is very clear that Troy's innocence was a serious possibility. Under our Justice System supposedly the burden of proof is on the state. This state sanctioned killing was unjust given this fact.

  2. guest

    Why is it that the police blotters from the past 24 hrs show that the majority of arrests are for colored people? Could that mean that they commit most of the crimes- as the crime in point???? MMMMMMM

  3. Guest

    you're really not going to win over a whole lot of converts if you dont even try to ride your bias. The imperialist war? Legal lynching? Go back to your drum circle hippy

    1. Ben

      This was a crosspost from a socialist magazine, so they will sneak in some rhetoric that turns people off. But read the article, read other articles that have been written about the execution, I mean seriously the pope spoke out about this case!!!

      This WAS a legal lynching, one where the burden of proof should have remained on the accusers to prove guilt, yet instead a man who was possibly innocent was killed by the State of Georgia.

      The family of James Anderson, a black man killed by white people in a racially motivated crime in Mississippi, have pleaded to prosecutors not to seek the death penalty recognizing that the death penalty historically was used in a discriminatory way to execute black people who killed white people. It is not crazy, hippy, or communist to see the injustice of Troy's execution as connected to the history of racism and the civil rights movement in the United States.

    2. beny

      An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life. Morality is never upheld by legalized murder. – Coretta Scott King (Wife of M.L.K)

      1. guest

        Who cares what the hell Mrs King says! It doesn't put food on the table does it? Davis was CONVICTED and had appeals to boot. Good bye to black trash.

  4. funkytown malone

    Kill 1 your a murderer kill 1000's your a conqueror. If we second guessed ourselves about every case out there, there would be bedlam. Imagine how many rapists and killers we would let free because we were weak and weren't 100% sure. The justice system works more often than it doesn't if that means a few innocents must be sacrificed then so be it.

      1. guest

        If you play by the rules you don't get arrested- unless your black and dealing drugs or killing innocent people. Ilberal scum make me sick

      2. funkytown malone

        Yeah and….. Sometimes innocents are sacrificed for the greater good. We,as humans, used to sacrifice virgins to fictitious deities, so comparatively we are doing a lot better.

  5. Liam

    It is sooooooooooo funny how many of you bloody racist Yanks pretend to be lovers' of Christ goodwill Liberalism. For all you dog patch meth smoking toothless trailer trash types a Liberal is a selfless person whom does for those whom cannot do for themselves. As Jesus was but if he were alive today you would tar and feather him then nail him to cross! Guest go and shag sheep as normal for you the police don't lie cover up crimes committed sell drugs engage in rape withe a plunger handle of a man in New York city…… Oh they do! I have no intention of ever visiting your racist hate mongering nation it so full of codswallow. I can only imagine if the lad he is guilty until proven innocent, killed a black officer he would be proclaimed innocent and you would scream for the evil police officers head on a pole!

    1. funkytown malone

      Wow go smoke some more crack, I for one am glad you would never come to our country due to the fact you sound like a total moron. Also by the statement you have just made sounds like you are the racist. I am almost positive where ever you are from (assuming your not lying) the police are more corrupt in your neck of the woods than ours. This case has had its chance and over and over again has been denied clemency, that should tell you that the media sometimes is about as honest as the subjects the report on.


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