09/21/2011 09:42 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2012

We Are All Troy Davis

When I was a kid, my mom worked as an art teacher on death row at California's San Quentin. She was eventually let go for refusing to wear her bullet-proof vest; for getting "too close" to the inmates. Sure, she was "too close."

Her boyfriend for many years was Robert Diaz, an innocent nurse from southern California who died of cancer in California prison custody last year, 26 years after he was sent to death row for doubtful murders.

Back when I was a young teenager and early 20-something, we held vigil at San Quentin when my mom's students were put to death. We sang and drummed and watched as the dead birds rained down when there was no stay of execution.

We held vigil even if we knew the prisoner was guilty; even if I'd met that very prisoner in the death row San Quentin visiting room and he'd decided, for whatever reason, to complete his art assignment for my mom by drawing my 14-year-old portrait in the middle of a colorful dart target. (Yes, I'm a bit ambivalent -- some convicted killers are both guilty and creepy).

Still, I'm not a pacifist. If anyone ever laid a hand on either of my children, I wouldn't hesitate to attack them with my bare hands. No, I'm not a pacifist.

But there's something even creepier than a convicted killer painting me inside his target -- and that's my government giving a likely-innocent man a full medical physical in the afternoon to make sure he's fit to die by lethal injection that night.

That's my government killing anyone in a scheduled and premeditated act.

Troy never painted anyone inside of a target. He didn't even ask for a special last meal. (That target-painter I knew in California had Kentucky Fried Chicken, if I recall. At the time I'd wished for him an Alice Waters meal -- as if really good wilted spinach would cause a last minute change in consciousness).


I'm watching the live coverage of the Georgia death row vigil for likely-innocent convicted killer Troy Davis.

I am Troy Davis, the t-shirts say.

I am Troy Davis.

And let's face it: We're all Troy Davis. Or we could be. The wrong place at the wrong time. Reasonable doubt. The death penalty must be abolished in this country as in the other countries that execute so many along with the United States: China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan.

I'm just saying.