Saturday, 24 September 2011

Troy Davis

Troy Davis R.I.P.

Some events make nearly everything else pale into insignificance. News of Troy Davis' execution this week, and the first hand accounts from his death chamber, completely stopped me in my tracks.  

So this week I am devoting The Conversation to Troy Davis, a man silenced by the state.  

In 1991 Davis was convicted, then sentenced to death, for the 1989 murder of police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia.  He and his family have protested his innocence from the first to the last - his final words this week were "I did not personally kill your son/father/brother... ".  The evidence relied on to convict him was highly dubious: no conclusive ballistics, the conviction relied on eye-witness accounts, several of which were  later recanted amidst claims of police coercion. Numerous pressure groups, notably Amnesty International, also politicians and celebrities including Jimmy Carter, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mia Farrow and Susan Sarandon, have endorsed a campaign to have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. The UK Foreign Office has also supported the campaign and this week published a statement on its website issued by the European Union in response to Davis' execution, reaffirming 'its principled and longstanding opposition to the use of capital punishment under all circumstances'.

I remember attending an Amnesty event at Portcullis House when Troy's family came to the UK to speak to the Foreign Office.  Hearing the story direct from his sister and nephew brought home the tragedy in human - not just human rights - terms.  I was with Russell Jones & Walker partner Julie Morris who in a previous life had worked on a number of death row cases. She opened my eyes to some shocking statistics about America - the land of the free - and its record as a capital killer. Did you know it is one of the top 5 capital killers in the entire world, ranking right up there with China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen - and ahead of Saudi Arabia?

Most chilling of all the coverage of the event this week has to be the first hand accounts of the journalists present at the execution - as much part of the death chamber scene as the attendance of a medical officer. Personally I found the effect of their highly factual, objective accounts more disturbing than any of the more emotive reports I read during the course of the week.  If you missed these, you can read them here at Daily Mail Online

Makes you wonder how far we have really come in the modern world. But at least the fight goes on...

by Steve Bell, The Guardian

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