Troy Davis Decision: Civil Rights Groups ‘Appalled and Outraged’

by Kenneth Mallory on September 20, 2011

Editor’s Note: In our article last week, “Can Technology Save an Innocent Man from Death Row?” we discussed the far-reaching impact of social media on this case. MMTC President and Executive Director David Honig stated, “[This] will present a potentially history-making test, if ever there was one, of the power of broadband technology in the right hands.” While social media did have a far-reaching impact on widespread movements on Davis’s behalf, the attention did not sway the Parole Board’s decision on Davis’s fate.

Upon hearing of the decision, Honig stated, “Troy Davis’s case was indeed a lesson to us all on the immense power of social media: Hundreds of thousands of people were mobilized for a single important cause in an extremely short period of time, and this can be a very inspirational lesson for civil rights organizations and activists. Unfortunately, in this case, there were more powerful forces at work.”

Civil rights organizations strongly condemned today’s decision by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to deny clemency to Troy Davis and move forward with his execution by lethal injection Wednesday night.

“We are appalled and outraged by the Parole Board’s erroneous decision to uphold the state’s death sentence to murder an innocent man,” NAACP President Ben Jealous said in a statement. “There is too much doubt to proceed with an execution. No amount of deliberation will change the fact that the case against Mr. Davis has too many holes.”

Thousands have been critical of the lack of sufficient evidence used to convict Davis of the murder of off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in 1991 in Savannah, Georgia. There was no physical evidence to link Davis to the crime, many say, and seven out of nine witnesses to the crime later recanted or contradicted their original testimony. Several have said police coerced their testimony.

Davis, 42, exhausted all appeals through the state and federal courts, and the Georgia clemency board was left with deciding whether to move forward with his execution after hearing Monday from Davis’ attorneys and family members and from the family of MacPhail.

“We find it unconscionable that the Board would allow this execution given its prior ruling and despite the nearly 1,000,000 voices calling for justice – including 40,000 from Georgia and over 10,000 from Savannah, 3,300 members of the clergy and 1,500 legal professionals – in support of Mr. Davis,” stated Edward O. Dubose, president of the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP. “To allow this execution to go forward without a re-examination of the facts and the alternate suspect is an injustice to both families, to the jurors who sentenced Davis to death and to the people of Chatham County.”

The NAACP and Amnesty International joined forces to spread awareness about Davis’ case through rallying, marching and a social media campaign. The groups were successful in delivering hundreds of thousands of petitions to the Georgia clemency board in support of Davis’ clemency and in attracting the attention of many human rights luminaries around the globe. According to Amnesty International, vigils and events were held in almost 300 places worldwide in support of Davis.

Amnesty International called on the clemency board to reconsider.

“This is a huge setback for human rights in the USA, where a man who has been condemned under dubious evidence is to be executed by the state. Even at this late stage, the Board must reconsider its decision,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said in a statement. “Clearly, the U.S. capital justice system is capable of making mistakes. The persistent doubts that have plagued the Troy Davis case point to a fundamental flaw of the death penalty. It is irrevocable – and in the USA, the death penalty is also marked by arbitrariness, discrimination and error.”

In a phone interview with Politic365.com, a representative from Northwestern University School of Law’s Center on Wrongful Convictions, which has worked on cases that have led to the exoneration of numerous people convicted of crimes in Illinois, deemed the Board’s decision “tragic.”

“This is a tragic decision given the serious doubts that have been raised about Troy Davis’ guilt,” said Rob Warden, executive director of the center. “There have been many questionable executions over the last 30 years and we’re about to experience yet another.”

Warden mentioned that in most states, the governor could grant a reprieve at any time. However, that does not appear to be the case in Georgia, where the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has the “has the sole constitutional authority to commute, or reduce, a death sentence to life without parole,” according to its website.

This article originally appeared on Politic365.

  • Kenneth Mallory is an award-winning journalist and attorney who has free-lanced for several publications, in addition to serving as a general assignment reporter for the Washington Afro-American Newspaper. He earned his B.A. magna cum laude from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in addition to his J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law.

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  • IAmTroyDavis

    May Troy Davis rest in peace.

  • Courtney

    It’s a shame that injustices like this still go on in this day and age. Are we better off than we were in the middle ages? Looks like we’re still going by “guilty until proven innocent.”

  • Anonymous

    Is it possible that some of this “outrage” could have been more conveniently located BEFORE the execution. I can’t buy outrage from post-hoc opportunists. Where was the outrage when election time in GA came around and Nathan Deal got elected to the senate.  I just can’t cosign the reactionary politics, it’s just not believable. Its the all talk and no action methodology being implemented that just seems disrespectful… indexes a profound LACK OF ENGAGEMENT on behalf of stakeholders. 

  • Power to the People

    There was plenty of outrage before the execution. Hundreds of thousands of people mobilized in dozens of cities on behalf of Troy Davis. Unfortunately, for this to happen, it takes an organization or viral video to publicize the atrocity everyone is mobilizing against. Fortunately, in this case, the NAACP was there to take that step. It’s sad that in the end, the efforts didn’t make a difference in saving a man’s life, but it showed us the power we ALL have to work together for a common good.

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