I Am Troy Davis
Book review by Reggie Clemons, on death row in Missouri
Reading I Am Troy Davis is an emotional, intellectual journey that should not be ever viewed as a spectacle. Spectacles are like movies and sports events that entertain and distract us, but do not come down to life and death. With every execution by the state, Troy Davis is executed all over again. With every execution of an innocent person, it is as if we are killing all of human kindness and spirit.
In reading I Am Troy Davis as a death row prisoner myself, the question I sought to answer was: is he an innocent man and did the system seek only to find a way to kill him?
Troy Davis comes to life and his bond with his sister Martina solidifies the depth of sorrow, pain, and heart-breaking disappointment these life-and-death decisions bring. There is no such thing as killing one person without affecting a whole family and community throughout the world. It is clear from one page to another that Martina would go to hell and back for Troy. Her fighting back death in the throes of cancer nibbling at her flesh, through pain and mental anguish, her spirit gave evidence that Troy Davis’s life had value, and of the likelihood of his innocence.
I won’t say that the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police and prosecuting attorneys or Attorney General’s Office were more focused on passion than the law. What I will say is that it would not be the first time police and prosecutors tampered with or misrepresented facts to the public or courts. Lawyers’ jobs on both sides are to win and police cannot help but feel passionate about the death of such a young fellow officer, as Officer Mark MacPhail. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to the family of fallen Officer MacPhail for their sacrifice, in offering their flesh and blood to keep society civilized.
It is an unfortunate part of a District Attorney prosecutor’s job and strategy to turn the passions of society against each other, and to make sure that the victim and the victim’s family focuses all their hurt, hate, and sorrow onto the defendant before trial and during appeals. In this way, no matter how innocent or regretful of a crime the defendant might be, the prosecution can secure and execute the harshest possible punishment on the poor and least educated.
The MacPhail family had every right to hurt, feel loss, sadness, hate the inner pain and to find the healing piece of forgiveness as justice rings out the truth.
There is the justice system of man and the universal justice of truth written upon the winds of change. Both the Davis family and the MacPhail family deserved a sincere attempt at truth as the winds of change turn for and against us according to our system of justice for all.
How does the MacPhail family feel about the possibility that Sylvester Red Coles killed Officer Mark and got away with it? Now that Troy Davis has been executed, Red Coles is free and clear of a closed case. After intimidating witnesses into not telling on him, he used the police investigators’ passions to divert attention from himself. It is understandable that Mr. Coles’ survival instincts made him take the path of least resistance, but all good investigative officers know a man’s conscience will reveal the truth of his misdeeds.
That’s the edge which allows all officers to get to the bottom of the truth when emotions are not involved. Here, though, they were misled by a parade of witnesses that lead Troy Davis to his execution in the death chamber. Witnesses tried to right their human mistakes, tried to use the force of breathing the truth into the air, only to find a system hardened and fixed on the finality of justice, a system that wanted to reap a soul for the fallen Officer MacPhail. With hardened hearts and closed ranks, the Fraternal Order of the Police pulled and stretched at the strings of justice, demanding satisfaction for their service.
In any normal process, this case would have received a new trial based upon Benjamin Gordon’s affidavit and testimony. The District Court of Savannah based its denial of Troy Davis on his failure to secure a confession or get Sylvester Red Coles to testify. Now death is riding on the winds of wrongful executions, regardless of how many people speak out for change. Without the confession of Sylvester Red Coles, the system will feel justified and continue to execute those who may be innocent.
While the whole word was watching, the lack of ironclad evidence was not enough to stop an execution. Especially in a case where the smoking gun—the gun that killed Officer Mark MacPhail—was never found. That gun is still out there, and might kill again.
The only mercy I see is that Virginia Davis did not have to bury her own children, that the MacPhail family no longer have to look at the man they have grown to hate, and that Troy Davis’s nephew De’Jaun Davis-Correia has turned out to be an amazing man with a resounding voice.