I stand with Troy Davis

Mark Clements
By: Mark Clements

I sympathize with the situation that Troy Davis, on death row in Georgia, is in because I was placed in a similar one.

Troy, like myself, is locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. He has been in prison for nearly 20 years. He was sentenced to die in 1991 after a trial that was tainted with police and prosecutors’ misconduct.

I was sentenced in 1981 and served 28 years of a life without the possibility of parole sentence—and I likely would have been given the death penalty if I had been a year older. My trial was also tainted by police misconduct—I was tortured into giving a false confession.

When I was only 16 years old, I was beaten and tortured by a detective working under Jon Burge at Area Three Violent Crime Unit. I was spoon-fed a confession. A supposed witness in my case, Ramona Patton, told police that she heard I set a fire that killed four people. This gave police probable cause to detain and interrogate me. 

My inexperienced lawyers never investigated the crime and therefore never showed that Patton attempted to collect a reward from the building owner before she fingered me to police. It has since come out that she also accused two other men in the community who also claim to have been tortured by police. 

No one believed me when I stood in a courtroom and explained that I was beaten and tortured in an unthinkable way, and called a nigger by a white detective who I had seen drinking whiskey in the police station. Faulty witnesses, false testimony and inexperienced lawyers left me in prison serving a natural life sentence until Northwestern Law School agreed to take over my case.

In 1983, the police tortures that had been taking place for over a decade were discovered. Some of the same police detectives who had committed acts of torture to other suspects had done the same to me.

Just like in my case, Troy’s exhibits all that’s wrong with our criminal justice system. Troy is a Black man accused of killing a white cop. The only evidence that links him to the crime is eyewitness testimony. But seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony. Although that was what convicted him, the state now says those same witnesses who testified that they were coerced by police are unreliable.

There is no gun, no fingerprints—no physical evidence at all linking Troy to the crime. But because the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled against Troy without any explanation, he could be facing a fourth execution date in the very near future. 

Being a person who was wrongfully convicted, I can tell you this—unless you have been incarcerated, you cannot begin to understand the anguish which Troy is experiencing at this moment. In a matter of days, he could be facing another death sentence. 

It is time for citizens who are concerned about justice to stand up strong and together. We must send in letters, phone calls and faxes to show the governor of Georgia and the Board of Pardons and Paroles that we are watching what they do, and we will not let them execute an innocent man.

Unless people take a stand and let their voices be heard, Troy could be killed by the state of Georgia. Police, prosecutors, elected officials and the like are always given the benefit of the doubt, but when a poor, Black man exhibits evidence that he is innocent, their eyes and ears are shut.

We know that Texas executed an innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham. We must not let the same thing happen to Troy Davis.

As a wrongfully convicted kid who would have faced the death penalty had I been a year older, I stand with Troy Davis. I feel his pain because I, too, am Troy Davis. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty and other groups are mobilizing to save Troy’s life. We urge you to stand with us and tell the state of Georgia, “You must not kill an innocent man!”