Innocent until proven guilty.
These four words helped establish our criminal justice system. But in a nation that prides itself in our belief in liberty and justice for all, why is Troy Davis -- with an overwhelming body of evidence pointing to his innocence -- facing execution?
Twenty years ago, Troy Davis was convicted of murdering a white police officer. He was sentenced to death solely on the basis of nine eyewitness accounts. Since then, seven of the nine recanted their statements, new witnesses have come forward identifying another man as the murderer, and the alleged murder weapon has still not been found.
Despite these new developments, the state of Georgia is putting Davis on track to be executed -- perhaps as early as next month.
The NAACP, along with Amnesty International and countless local partners, is working to right this injustice, but we cannot do it alone. We have initiated a petition to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole to commute Troy's sentence. Please add your name.
When the U.S. Supreme Court heard the evidence last year, they understood that there were many more questions to be answered. But instead of granting Troy Davis a trial where his peers could decide his fate, he was forced to face a single hearing before a federal judge in which the burden was on Troy to prove his innocence -- the exact opposite presumption of a jury trial.
In hopes of exonerating Troy after 10 years of imprisonment, his lawyer submitted each piece of evidence at the hearing. And each piece of evidence was rejected by the judge. Despite noting that the case against Troy was not "ironclad," he nevertheless refused to grant a new trial.
A jury trial would have made this issue moot. Reasonable doubt would have freed Troy Davis.
Today, a decision by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole is Troy's only hope. The NAACP and our partners will continue to do all we can within Georgia and around the country to make the case for clemency.
As an American, I have faith in our justice system. But as President of the NAACP, I have seen how our justice system can fail -- sometimes even when it comes to life and death. It is up to us to right this wrong.
If the presumption of innocence means anything in our justice system, we cannot execute a man with such an overwhelming body of evidence pointing to his innocence.
Follow Benjamin Todd Jealous on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BenJealous