We Are All Troy Davis

By: Ken Richardson

The world looked on in horror the night of September 21 as Troy Davis was legally lynched by the state of Georgia. It was shocking that no authority--not President Obama, not the governor of Georgia, not the parole board--would intervene to stop this tragic injustice. 

Over a million people signed petitions urging the board to grant Troy clemency. Rallies were held around the country and around the world to protest his killing. "But the system ignored the people and lynched Troy Davis," said former Illinois prisoner and victim of police torture Mark Clements. 

Troy Davis' case is an example of the systematic racism embedded in the criminal justice system. Troy was a young Black man who was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. He was swept up in a system that is racist at every level, from law enforcement to the courts. 

Troy was convicted of murdering a white police officer in 1989--being accused of murdering a police officer in the racist South was a huge strike against Troy. There was no physical evidence, no murder weapon, no fingerprints and no DNA. The case against Troy was based on the testimony of nine witnesses who claimed he was at the scene. But seven of the nine witnesses recanted their testimony, claiming they were pressured to implicate Troy by a police force that was intent on avenging the death of an officer. 

The state of Georgia set three previous execution dates for Troy, but they were postponed because of public pressure. Even judges, such as U.S. District Judge William Moore noted that the case against Troy was not airtight. Luminaries from around the world, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, Rev. Jessie Jackson and former FBI head William Sessions, called for Troy's execution to be halted. 

Troy and his family fought for over 20 years to try to win Troy his freedom, and if it ?wasn't for their activism along with thousands of others around the world, Troy would have been executed long ago. 

Troy's sister Martina Correia was a tireless fighter for her brother, even though she was stricken with cancer. The thousands of people who worked on Troy's case and the millions of people who were outraged by his execution are a glimpse of the social movement we need to fight the prison-industrial complex and end the death penalty. 

Troy Davis will never be forgotten; he is an inspiration for the anti-death-penalty movement now and many movements to come. The execution of Troy Davis was a turning point for the anti-death-penalty movement. Now there is only one direction to go: towards abolition. 

Troy was a very forward-thinking person. He was a self-less person who realized the movement was bigger than him. In his last note, Troy wrote: "There are so many more Troy Davises. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me, but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city, state by state, and country by country."

Troy's last written words should be the basis of a renewed movement against the racist death penalty that took his life. We can't depend on politicians, law enforcement or the Supreme Court to abolish the death penalty--we can only depend on each other: community activists, prisoners and family members. 

Troy's legacy will live on; it lives in the millions of people who were outraged by his death and in the people who will heed his last words and end the death penalty once and for all. We are all Troy Davis.