During the first Republican debate last week, the loudest applause of the night rang after Brian Williams questioned Gov. Rick Perry on Texas' execution of an alarming 234 death row inmates. As predicted, his response included the following: 'If you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer... you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed'. What Perry and the bloodthirsty crowd glanced over however is the fact that countless innocent people are wrongly executed and many more continue to sit on death row today. And then there are some that just want an opportunity to have a fair day in court to allow the system to truly decipher their guilt or innocence. One such individual is a man by the name of Troy Davis.
In 1991, Davis was convicted -- based solely on witness testimony -- of murdering a Georgia police officer. Despite prevalent inconsistencies even at that time, he remains on death row till this day. In the years since the trial, seven out of nine witnesses have recanted their statements and many assert that they were pressured into fingering Davis as the killer by overly-eager police trying to solve a case involving one of their own. One witness even stated that he never saw Davis shoot or kill anyone. And to add insult to injury, one of the only people not recanting his testimony is Sylvester 'Red' Coles -- a person who was once also considered a suspect. There is new evidence pointing towards Coles as the gunman, and nine people have signed affidavits accusing him of committing the murder. So with all of these remarkable developments, why is Troy Davis still scheduled to be executed on September 21st?
Yesterday evening on my MSNBC Politics Nation broadcast, I was joined by former Republican Congressman Bob Barr for a segment on this troubling situation. Although Barr and I are often on opposing ends of the spectrum and he supports the death penalty overall, the former representative highlighted the serious flaws within this case and the need for us to halt Davis' execution. During the time of his conviction, there was no DNA or physical evidence and no recovery of a weapon. An entire case that was constructed solely on the basis of witness testimony that has now fallen apart requires immediate action. It's why people like former President Jimmy Carter are supporting Davis in his quest for justice and why I have also visited him on death row. National Action Network has been pushing for a fair trial for Davis for several years and there is absolutely no time left to wait.
Troy Davis has exhausted all of his appeals and without clemency or some other drastic action, he will be executed next week. A man, who in his two decades or more (spent two years just awaiting trial) behind bars, lost his own father during that time and missed out on a tremendous chunk of his prime years, faces imminent death. An Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act passed by Congress in 1996 made it more difficult for Davis to attempt to prove his innocence, while the lack of DNA evidence prevalent in older cases like his should be reason enough for Davis to receive a new court date.
I, like numerous other voices out there, am not asking you to judge whether or not Davis is innocent or guilty. We are instead advocating for an end to his execution and an opportunity to finally receive a just trial where evidence can be introduced and witnesses will not be coerced or pressured into lying. If we truly believe in the notion of law and order, then we owe it to this man who has spent over 20 years behind bars based off of questionable witness statements. That is not the way our courts should work and that is not the way justice is served. It is simply unconscionable. If we allow Davis to die on the 21st, then a piece of our legal system and rule of law will perish with him.
To all those who chant and champion the taking of another man's life, just think how you'll sleep at night knowing that this person may have been innocent after all. It's time to put aside preconceptions and instead look at the facts -- for facts don't lie.
Stop the execution of Troy Davis today; give him due process.
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