“If one of our fellow citizens can be executed with so much doubt surrounding his guilt, then the death penalty system in our country is unjust and outdated. We hope this tragedy will spur us as a nation toward the total rejection of capital punishment,” said former president Jimmy Carter concerning the execution of Troy Davis.
Yet, too few people understand the extent of the message sent by the state of Georgia and the Supreme Court last night. As well, too few appreciate the strength of character it takes to survive the ordeal that Troy Davis faced. For more that two decades he lived as an innocent man knowing that no matter how hard he fought the odds were that in the end the state would win the battle. He lived with death everyday that he was on death row, but he never let go of life.
I received a couple of letters from Troy several years ago and was greatly impressed by the deep compassion and caring that he showed for others despite his own situation. And in conversation yesterday with a friend, Troy Davis instructed those of us fighting the death penalty to “keep the faith, because the fight is bigger than him.” It seems certain that Troy died feeling that by his living and not giving up even at the moment the state of Georgia took his life that his memory will help others facing injustice.
Troy was far more than just another death row inmate, he was the man who brought the death penalty to the forefront in America. Now, it is up to the million supporting him to assure that the focus is not lost. He died a martyr for a cause. Now it is up to each of us to assure that the fight he faced is carried on and enough battles won to instigate the change that should have prevented his death.
Supposedly there are fail-safes to assure that the system does not execute the innocent. However, it was just clearly proven that there is nothing to prevent the execution of the innocent, nor to assure that we only execute the worst of the worst. All Americans were just assured that not even the innocent are safe against wrongful conviction, and Troy is certainly not alone in his death as an innocent. Nor was he alone in life as an innocent man on death row.
Thus, though we cannot stop the death penalty entirely, we certainly have the opportunity to call for accountability after the travesty that the state of Georgia just perpetrated in the name of justice. We have the chance to work to bring forth so much of the truth surrounding the capital system that millions more will support others facing injustice. We have the opportunity to turn the tide in our favor, because Troy Davis showed a strength of character which few can manage.
“All I can ask … is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight,” Troy requested of those close to him to just before he was murdered for the crime of another.
Troy died wanting to see the truth revealed, and left that part of the fight to each of us. It is now time for those who say they are against the death penalty to show the courage and strength of spirit that we recognized in him. It is time to actually fight the true monsters that come in the form of politicians seeking votes by using our fellow man in their disgusting games of life, death and prison cells, justices in robes and draconian laws which do not allow justice for anyone but the wealthiest few among us.
Troy Davis left us a legacy of tenacity, faith and bravery to look to and today as we contemplate his death, let us all also contemplate the fight that lies ahead and what we will do to assure that Troy’s name and cause live on…