Now is the time to speak up for Troy

June 20, 2011

Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis could face a new execution date at any time--and opponents of the death penalty are mobilizing now to defend this innocent man.

Troy was accused of killing an off-duty police officer, Mark MacPhail, in a parking lot of a Burger King restaurant in Savannah, Ga., in 1989. There is no physical evidence tying Troy to the crime--no murder weapon nor fingerprints nor DNA. The main evidence against him was the testimony of nine witnesses--seven of whom have since recanted their stories, saying they were pressured by police into fingering Troy. But no jury has heard this evidence because Troy has been denied justice at every level of the court system. He is now out of appeals, so if an execution date is set, his fate lies with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Activists are mobilizing now to put pressure on the board. Members of the Illinois chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty met with Rev. Jesse Jackson to urge him to visit Troy and join in the struggle for him. Jackson agreed and recently traveled to Georgia to meet Troy and also members of the parole board.

Here, Mark Clements, a CEDP board member and former victim of police torture in Chicago who was wrongfully imprisoned for 28 years before he finally won his freedom, reports on his discussions with Jackson and talks about the crying need for justice.

REV. JESSE Jackson recently traveled to Georgia to visit death row prisoner Troy Davis and to call on the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to give Troy clemency. Jackson was seeking answers about why Davis remains on death row despite the fact that seven of the nine witnesses whose testimony was central in convicting them have recanted.

During an interview, Jackson told me that he was pleased with his meeting with Davis and the parole board. Rev. Jackson smiled as he spoke of Davis, stating that he would return to Georgia because this case should not be allowed to just fade away.

Authorities in Georgia could reach a decision any time in the coming weeks or months to set an execution date for Davis. At that point, the five-member parole board could either grant or deny a petition for clemency that will be filed by Davis' team of lawyers.

Jackson appeared upset over the fact that the Georgia Department of Corrections does not allow inmates access to the media--he told me that he has met with his lawyers and is considering filing a lawsuit against the state of Georgia to try to terminate this policy, which prevents prisoners from getting access to media that are in a position to expose injustices in their cases.

Protesters call for justice for Troy Davis
Protesters call for justice for Troy Davis

In Illinois, for example, the Chicago Tribune who interviewed inmates and broke stories about those who were tortured under the command of former Chicago police Lt. Jon Burge. Had these stories not been printed, there is a good possibility that Burge would still be a member of the Chicago Police Department and tortures still be occurring against African American and Latino men. The Tribune also exposed major flaws with Illinois death penalty system. Its articles helped convince former Gov. George Ryan to commute the sentences of every death row prisoner in 2003--and ultimately Illinois lawmakers who voted to end the state's death penalty earlier this year.

Davis is a prime example of how flawed the death penalty is across the country. Now is the time to further expose the wrongs of our criminal justice system and to shut down Georgia death row.

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty is organizing the fight now to save Davis' life through gaining clemency so he can continue his fight for his freedom. Spending 28 years in prison for a crime that I didn't commit--during which I watched the state of Illinois prepare for executions--I can tell you that Davis is experiencing very harsh treatment by Georgia prison officials.

Featured at Socialism

Hear Mark Clements at Socialism 2011 in Chicago, speaking with Leela Yellesetty on "Challenging the new Jim Crow." Check out the Socialism 2011 website for more details.

We must be his voice. Our goal is not to just spare Davis' life, but to win his freedom from prison. In order to achieve this goal, our voices must be heard now and not later. Once an execution date is set in his case, Davis will have 10 days before that execution is carried out. We say "Hell no!"

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles is made up of one Georgia police officer, a former state representative, a former prosecutor and two ex-prison officials--not a favorable board. It's time to speak now as we mobilize for a fight against a corrupt system that refuses to acknowledge its many wrongs.

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