UK students must be voice of Troy Davis

“Everyone is asking the question, why kill when there is doubt?” Martina Correia spoke these words Sept. 21, the day of the death of her brother, Troy Davis. The state of Georgia executed Troy Anthony Davis by lethal injunction and the 42-year-old was declared dead by 11:08 p.m. This happened immediately following the Supreme Court’s rejection of a stay for Davis.

Before you think this is another case of death penalty dramatization, the Troy Davis case exhibits some characteristics that are, to say the least, troubling. Look at the facts: Seven of the nine key witnesses have recanted their testimony that they saw Davis get into a heated argument with a man and afterward shoot and kill police Mark MacPhail. Some of those who recanted revealed their illiteracy and that they couldn’t read the police statements they signed.

Moreover, since Davis was convicted by that kind of jury he was required to “prove his innocence” in order to live. I believe this requirement simply shatters the American presumption of innocence developed out of civil law. And most importantly, there is absolutely no DNA evidence to incriminate Davis, and that means there is no justification for executing him.

But while there were many more reasons not to execute Troy Davis, he was killed anyway, after another tortuous night of appeal. That makes Davis one of at least 10 documented cases since 1976 of wrongful execution, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Since 1973, one hundred and thirty-eight American death row prisoners have been declared innocent and released.

Maybe most disconcerting for me was something revealed by Correia to DemocracyNow community media. Davis’s family reportedly received several warnings to avoid state burial for Troy. The suggestion was that elements within the agency that handles executed bodies would somehow violate Davis’s recently deceased body.

This was enough to convince the family of private burial, which they paid for out of pocket. The point is that the family of brutally murdered Troy Davis also had to pay for their own son, brother or father’s burial costs.  Cases such as this beg the question whether the state intentionally punishes minority groups to cause racial division between Americans.

But we as UK Students are obligated to answer that question. We need to be prepared to speak aloud, and to say “I am Troy Davis,” and “We are Troy Davis.” The National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples has tabled about the murder of Davis at UK, and I call for much more action on campus. So, as Martina said: “Everyone is asking the question, why kill when there is doubt? I know we can abolish the death penalty.”