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Paula Gordon Headshot

Faith-Based Cruelty: The Other Georgia

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What day and time you will die? I, for one, have no interest in knowing. Troy Anthony Davis, almost certainly an innocent man, knows. He'll die Tuesday, September 23, 2008. Never mind his conviction was based solely on the testimony of witnesses, seven of whom have recanted, saying they were coerced by Savannah police and changing what they said in court. Never mind signed affidavits implicating one of the two witnesses who did not recant as the actual killer. Or that there was no other evidence against Mr. Davis -- a total lack of physical evidence -- and no new evidence has ever been heard in court because the appeals process is increasingly restricted. Never mind the national and international outcry, pleas for justice and for Troy Anthony Davis' life.

This execution has come to feel personal. September 11th, I stood on the stops of my state capitol in downtown Atlanta. Hope glimmered that I and the State of Georgia could honor many lives lost in 2001 by saving one now. Many hundreds of us were there -- ordinary people of every possible description. We stood as one as we implored the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to stay Mr. Davis execution, to grant him a fair trial.

It got suddenly even more personal when Troy Anthony Davis' sister put her mobile phone up to the microphone and there he was. Troy Anthony Davis. That kind face on the T-shirts suddenly alive in his voice, talking to us from his tiny death row cell in Jackson, GA. First, he grieved for the family of the off-duty policeman who lost his life in 1989. Then he was glad we were there for him, sure enough. Mostly, he desperately urged us to remember that whatever happened to him, we must continue to stand up for all the other people languishing on death rows across the nation. Too many are unknown...and also innocent.

I do not know if the State of Georgia will shame and disgrace itself and me this week. September 12th, the Board of Pardons and Clemency rejected Mr. Davis' appeals, so the clock ticks. According to a writer for The New York Times, the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to decide whether to hear a last-minute appeal of Mr. Davis' case -- on September 29th.

This violent nation's faith-based cruelty offends decency, conscience and justice. "Kill them all and let God sort them out" was a bad idea in the 13th century. There is compelling evidence that legally sanctioned execution does not deter. Does justice require a life for a life? Will any life do? Are we infallible? Is faith more trustworthy than evidence? Where lies the urgency in killing this man? What does "sanctity of life" mean?

The genuinely appalling becomes truly indefensible when a State -- in this case Georgia, acting in my name as one of the sovereign people -- annihilates a man whose guilt is far, far, far beyond a reasonable doubt.

Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are among those offering ways to urge the State of Georgia to stop the imminent execution of Troy Anthony Davis.