Category: Troy Davis

NPR: Death sentences drop to historic lows in 2011

by Melanie Wilmoth

On several occasions in recent months, the death penalty debate has made its way into the public spotlight.

In September, Rick Perry made headlines at a Republican debate when the fact that he presided over 234 executions in Texas was met with cheerful applause. Later that month, media coverage of death penalty issues surged again when the State of Georgia executed Troy Davis despite significant doubts surrounding his guilt. Moreover, recent stories of death row exonerations served to increase concerns about the use of capital punishment in the U.S.

A Gallup poll conducted in October indicated that U.S. support for the death penalty dropped to a 39-year low. In fact, just a few weeks ago, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber halted the death penalty stating, “I simply cannot participate once again in something that I believe to be morally wrong.”

Today, Laura Sullivan from NPR reported that for the first time in over 30 years, fewer than 100 people were sent to death row in 2011. “Just 78 offenders were handed capital sentences,” Sullivan says,  “And only 43 inmates were executed — almost half as many as 10 years ago.”

What do these changing trends mean for capital punishment in the U.S? (more…)

U.S. support for death penalty dips to 39-year low

by Melanie Wilmoth

A Gallup poll conducted last week reveals that support for the death penalty in the U.S. has dropped to a 39-year low. According to the poll:

“Sixty-one percent of Americans approve of using the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, down from 64% last year. This is the lowest level of support since 1972, the year the Supreme Court voided all existing state death penalty laws in Furman v. Georgia.”

The poll, conducted October 6-9, 2011, came in the wake of Troy Davis’ execution, which could explain some of the decrease in support for the death penalty. However, Gallup points out that “there have been high-profile executions in the news in previous years without concomitant drops in death penalty support, making it less clear that such events have a direct impact on attitudes.”

See the results of the poll below:



Michelle Alexander on the execution of Troy Davis

Take a moment to check out this video of an interview with Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” and hear her response to the recent execution of Troy Davis. MW

“What I hope is that the passion and the energy and momentum that was generated to save Troy’s life…won’t just fade away, won’t be one of these episodic spurts that we’ve seen in the past, but will actually signal a new phase in the movement to end the death penalty. [I hope] that we’ll be able to look back and see Troy Davis’ death as the day when the movement to end the death penalty and the movement to end mass incarceration gained new steam.” -Michelle Alexander

Troy Davis and the growing case against eyewitness ID

by Melanie Wilmoth

The case against Troy Davis hinged on the eyewitness testimony of several individuals who claimed that Davis shot police officer Mark MacPhail. Many began to have serious doubts about Davis’ guilt, however, after several witnesses recanted their original testimony. Despite witness recantations, hundreds of thousands of petitions, and international protests against Troy’s execution, the state of Georgia remained steadfast in its belief that Davis was guilty and, ultimately, executed him.

In a recent Associated Press article, Michael Tarm and Eric Tucker highlight how the controversy around Troy Davis’ execution has sparked debate about the accuracy of eyewitness identifications.

Davis’ execution came at a time in which the reliability of eyewitness identifications was increasingly questioned. Studies on the fallibility of human memory as well as a host of recent DNA exonerations have contributed to the doubt surrounding the accuracy of eyewitness ID, and increased concerns that these identifications may lead to wrongful convictions.

Just last month, we reported that the New Jersey Supreme Court decided to reform rules around eyewitness ID, requiring more rigorous evaluations of eyewitness identifications and making it easier for defendants to challenge eyewitness testimony. Several other states have recently attempted to reduce the reliance on eyewitness identification as well.

As Tarm and Tucker point out, the doubt surrounding Davis’ conviction and subsequent execution will likely “fuel the eyewitness ID debate” and will hopefully lead to more sound rules and regulations regarding the use of eyewitness identification. Check out what they have to say in their article below.

You may also want to check out a related article published by Time Magazine.

Troy Davis execution fuels eyewitness ID debate

(AP)  SAVANNAH, Ga. — When Georgia executed Troy Davis last week, it brushed aside international protests that too many witnesses had recanted trial testimony that he was the gunman who killed a police officer in 1989.

The issue raised in Davis’s case, however, is getting harder to ignore. With scientific studies showing the human memory can be surprisingly faulty, the once-damning weight of eyewitness testimony has come under question in courts and state legislatures. (more…)

Officials won’t let prisoner read book on prisons and slavery

By Alan Bean

An Alabama inmate is suing for the right to read a Pulitzer prize-winning book, “Slavery By Another Name.”  The book chronicles the use of prisons and harsh treatment to maintain control over black citizens in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th. 

The folks who run the Kirby Correctional Facility think the book constitutes a security risk.

When I read this story I was reminded of the Never Again rally Friends of Justice sponsored on the second anniversary of the infamous Tulia drug sting.  For reasons that have always eluded me, prisons within a 100-mile radius of Tulia (a small town in the Texas panhandle) were placed on full lockdown the day of the rally.  That means prisoners were confined to their cells and fed PB&J sandwiches while the incendiary sermons, comedy routines, musical presentations and speeches unfolded in front of 400 people in a Tulia park. 

The presence of Friends of Justice at the June 2010 trial of Curtis Flowers in Winona, MS prompted a similar kind of over-reaction.  An African-American intern who drove to Winona to assist defense counsel was pulled over by an officer who forced her to explain her reasons for being in town.

The authorities don’t always react this way.  The officers who handled the September 2007 march on Jena, Louisiana were uniformly cordial and professional, even though a crowd of at least 30,000 people was marching through a community of 3,000. (more…)

Troy Davis clemency denied: Take action now!

Despite growing doubts in the case against Troy Davis, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles decided early Tuesday morning to deny clemency to Mr. Davis. His execution is set for tomorrow, September 21, at 7:00pm.

Both Amnesty International and the NAACP are calling on individuals to contact District Attorney Larry Chisolm and ask him to petition the Judge to withdraw the death warrant against Troy. Please consider speaking out against this injustice and signing both the Amnesty International petition and the NAACP petition. This is Troy’s last hope.

Amnesty International is also organizing a Day of Protest (today) and a Day of Vigil (tomorrow) in support of Troy. See the message below from Laura Moye of Amnesty International for more details. MW

BREAKING: The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denies clemency to Troy Davis

It is with a very heavy heart and a deep sense of outrage that I let you know that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to deny clemency to Troy Davis.

This means that very little is standing in the way of the state of Georgia executing a potentially innocent man this Wednesday, September 21 at 7pm.

The actions of the Board are astounding in the face of so much doubt in the case against Troy Davis. However, we are not prepared to accept the decision and let anyone with the power to stop the execution off the hook.

Join us in calling on the Board to reconsider its decision, and on the Chatham County (Savannah) District Attorney Larry Chisolm to do the right thing. They have until the final moments before Troy’s scheduled execution to put the brakes on this runaway justice system.

We have seen an unprecedented level of support from our members, coalition partners and all sorts of concerned individuals across the political spectrum.

I was blown away as I carried one of the many boxes containing your petition signatures up to the Parole Board office last Thursday. Close to a million signatures have been collected from the many organizations working with us. I looked back as we were marching down Auburn Avenue in Atlanta Friday night and I could not see an end to the crowd. About 3,500 people came out!

The movement here is very alive. It is electric. And I have no doubt that we will raise the volume together against what could be an unthinkable injustice.

Join your voices with us – we will not allow Troy Davis to be executed, not in our names! Troy Davis and his family have counted on us for many years now and we will not let them down. Please take action – human rights and a human life are on the line. Please contact Georgia’s District Attorney and urge him to stop the execution of Troy Davis.

Make the state of Georgia hear you! Tell them that executing Troy Davis will only deepen the cycle of violence and injustice.

In Solidarity,
Laura Moye
Director, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

P.S. We’ll be organizing a Day of Protest today to express our outrage at the recent decision to deny Troy Davis clemency. And on Wednesday (Sept. 21), we’re calling for a Day of Vigil on Troy’s impending execution date. If you are able to organize locally for either of these events, please tell us about your plans.

Former FBI Chief says Troy Davis should not die

By Alan Bean

In an op-ed written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, William Sessions asks the State of Georgia not to execute Troy Davis.

Four Months ago I predicted that the State of Georgia would not execute Troy Davis

It wasn’t suggesting that mercy tinged with common sense would prevail. 

In the absence of outside scrutiny, there is no question that Georgia would send Mr. Davis to God without a single qualm.   (more…)

Congress members seek clemency for Troy Davis

by Melanie Wilmoth

In the wake of the announcement that Troy Davis’ execution is scheduled for September 21, several US Congress members are seeking clemency for Mr. Davis.

Fifty-one Congress members, all Democrats, have signed a letter addressed to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles stating that “considerable doubts as to Troy Davis’ guilt remain.”

The evidence against Mr. Davis is questionable at best. As Congress members point out:

“Several witnesses testified at the evidentiary hearing that they had been coerced into making statements implicating Troy Davis at trial. At the hearing, one witness testified for the first time that he saw another suspect in the case commit the crime. The credibility of various witnesses was challenged by the state of Georgia, and the judge in that case agreed. Many of these same witnesses, whose credibility is now questioned, were essential to obtaining Troy Davis’ original conviction.”

Despite claims of coercion, questions about witness credibility, and 7 of 9 witnesses recanting their testimony, Troy Davis is still considered guilty and set to be executed.

Congress members are not the only people speaking out against this injustice. Other world leaders, artists, and public figures have joined the fight as well.

John Lewis, Hank Johnson, David Scott, Sanford Bishop seek clemency for Troy Davis

By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

The Georgia members of Congress have asked the state Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency for Troy Davis, who is scheduled to face execution next week the 1989 killing of off-duty Savannah Police Officer Mark Allen MacPhail.

Hank Johnson of Decatur, John Lewis and David Scott of Atlanta, and Sanford Bishop of Albany, all Democrats, put their signatures to the letter that can be read here. A total of four dozen members of Congress signed. (more…)

International Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis

See below for information on the International Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis. Thanks to Laura Moye of Amnesty International USA for providing this information. MW

Stand Strong, Stand Together for Troy Davis this Friday, September 16!

This Friday, September 16, is the International Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis.

We need you there. Troy needs you there.

We chose this date because the following Monday, the Georgia Board of Pardons & Paroles will hold Troy’s final clemency hearing – our final chance to prevent Troy Davis from being executed.

On Friday, September 16th we need everyone pouring out onto the streets to demand justice for Troy Davis. We want to see pictures, local news stories, Facebook postsvideosblogs, tweets and re-tweets on Twitter and any other visible signs of solidarity for Troy.

To make the biggest impact, we’ll need to join together.

If you know of public events happening in your U.S. city, then please add them to our public listing! Or to find a public Troy Davis Solidarity event taking place in your city, check back at our event listing that will be available in the next few days!

Here’s how to add a Troy Davis solidarity event to our public listing:

  1. Visit our Submit Your Event page
  2. Be sure to add a descriptive title for your event that includes “Troy Davis Event”
  3. In the Description, please include any details about your event including location, type of event (film screening, rally, vigil, etc) and any special information such as parking.

The outpouring of support you’ve shown for Troy Davis so far has been phenomenal – more than 100,000 of you have signed the petition for clemency and nearly 500 events have popped up in small towns and big cities alike all over the United States. Supporters from countries in the U.K., France, Denmark, Brazil, Hong Kong and Australia have also joined in to lend their voices.

The growing range of scholars, world leaders and prominent figures who are also demanding justice – including former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Legend, R.E.M., Russell Simmons, Mia Farrow, Indigo Girls, a former Governor of Texas and a former Member of Congress from Georgia – is simply awe-inspiring.

Momentum is building, but the biggest hurdle lies ahead.

Thank you for standing with Troy Davis!

Laura Moye
Director, Death Penalty Abolition Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Three ways to help Troy Davis

If you’re wondering how to respond to Georgia’s scheduled September 21st execution of Troy Davis you’ve come to the right place.  Thanks to Courtney-Rose Harris of the NAACP for providing this information.  AGB

Three ways to help Troy Davis and his family

The Georgia Board of Pardons & Paroles will determine Troy Davis’ fate on September 19 during a final clemency hearing.  As NAACP President & CEO Benjamin Jealous said, “Time is running out, and this is truly Troy’s last chance for life.”

Now is the time for action!  The NAACP (in partnership with Amnesty International) began the TooMuchDoubt campaign Tuesday.  There are three easy ways that people can support Troy Davis.

1. Sign the petition to the Board of Pardons and pass this on to your friends and family. Each name means a more united front for justice:

2. Send a message of support to Troy as he fights for justice on what may be the final days of his life.

3. Make sure everyone knows about this injustice. Spread the word on Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #TooMuchDoubt) so that Troy Davis’ story can be heard. We still have a chance to save his life, but only if people are willing to speak out against injustice.

The NAACP will also be on the ground mobilizing our members and allies in the state of Georgia as Davis’ hearing date approaches.   On September 15 we will hold a rally at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA.

It’s clear that there is no justice in executing a man when there is just too much doubt. We are certain that with this information your readers and supporters will be more than compelled to support Troy Davis.  Feel free to reach out to me at 443/676-7503 or with any questions.

Courtney-Rose Harris

NAACP Connect Project Specialist

New Media Department
1156 15th Street NW, Suite 915
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 463-2940 (O)