Help Save Troy Davis

Posted on 09/20/11 28 Comments

In 1991 Troy Davis was convicted of the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail. While there is strong evidence that Davis is not guilty the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles just denied his appeal for clemency this morning. He is now scheduled to be executed by lethal injection tomorrow (Wednesday, September 21st) at 7 PM in Georgia. Here is some background on the case from the Wall Street Journal this morning:

Mr. Davis, 42 years old, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1991 for the murder of Mr. MacPhail, an army veteran and a 27-year-old father of two small children. Mr. MacPhail was shot to death in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah in 1989.

Mr. Davis was arrested shortly after the crime, and multiple witnesses, some of them jailhouse informants, testified that Mr. Davis committed the murder. Years later, several witnesses recanted or altered their original testimony. Some said one of the witnesses was in fact the killer. Some jurors on the original trial now say they would have changed their decision.

Please consider signing a petition as a last ditch effort for clemency:

  • The Atheist Missionary

    From the perspective of an atheist who believes it is likely that this is the only life we have, I can see why the execution of an innocent inmate would be concerning. However, if I was a committed Christian, why would I be in any way concerned about the premature cessation of a human life that must be only the blink of an eye compared to the eternity of the hereafter? While I have no doubt that death by lethal injection is not enjoyable, we’re all checking out sometime. “We are all passengers on the Titanic“: Jack Foster.

    • randal

      I don’t understand this comment. You’re saying that if a person believes life continues after death that they shouldn’t be concerned about justice before death? Really?

  • Sean R Reid

    Ugh, I sincerely *hate* the death penalty. After a great deal of introspection and hand-wringing, I simply cannot abide the idea of someone -where “someone” is another human – being the arbiter of who should live or die. Particularly in regards to war or punishment. I simply don’t see how the death penalty is any form of justice, regardless of the fleeting feelings of the wronged.

    Honestly, I even have trouble with the idea that God determines who lives and dies.

    These are ideas I’ve wrestled with both as an agnostic and, now, as a Christian.

    I can find very few, if any, scenarios in which death dealt by someone else is warranted – although I will concede that does not mean that it will not occur or that there’s a plausible scenario in which I would be on the dealing end of such a decision.

    Sadly, he stands accused of killing a police officer. In most of the US, and particularly in Ga. (where I live), the police occupy an elite, protected, class of individuals. Guilty or not, there’s a strong chance that Davis will be dead. If the courts don’t do it, the “Blue Wall” will.

    • Sean R Reid

      Sadly, after reading the Amnesty site, my first reaction was only reinforced.

      He’s a black man accused of killing a cop. His death warrant was sealed the minute he was placed under arrest.

      I can only assume the trial was a formality, if not outright theater.

      If he is actually guilty then justice should be done -sans matching murder with murder. If he is not guilty then he should be freed.

      Sadly, I doubt we’ll know the truth and Davis will not live to dispute the record.

      • randal

        While I share your rejection of the death penalty, the biggest mystery for me is how those who support it can agree to carry it out when there is nothing like evidence beyond a reasonble doubt that the convict in fact committed the crime.

        • Sean R Reid

          Unfortunately, it’s because

          1) He’s black
          2) He’s accused of killing a cop
          3) He lives in Georgia.

          It’s basically the trifecta. If any one of those wasn’t true then it would be a different story entirely.

          • Cory C

            You realize how foolish this is and how foolish you sound?

            James Byrd, Jr., the monstrous white supremacist who tied a black man to the back of his truck dragging him to his death, was executed today — did you hear about this in the media?

            Following your conspiratorial logic, is it because the victim was black and, in the Troy Davis case, the roles are reversed?

            You can’t have it both ways, sorry.

            • Sean R Reid

              What do you mean “both ways??” You’re not even making any sense.

              Are you saying we’re only hearing about this case because the prisoner is black? That was never my point. I was saying that it’s more difficult for a for a black man convicted of killing a white cop to get a stay of execution in the South. To extend it beyond race, I believe that it’s more difficult for anyone convicted of killing a cop to get a stay of execution. The fact that racism is still alive and well in Georgia only adds to the complications.

              There’s no conspiracy there, it wasn’t some grand scheme. I’m merely stating the reality of how things are regarding race relations and the judicial system.

              Furthermore, I added that if he is guilty the death penalty is not an appropriate form of “justice.” To be certain, it’s vengeance, but not justice. The same goes for Byrd Jr. His death robs that family of justice and replaces it with the fleeting salve of revenge.

              Personally, if I’m appealing to vengeance, I’d prefer someone like Byrd live a long life of agony being confronted with the pain they caused their victims. A swift death is almost too humane. However, it’s the fact that I, being relatively sane, can have those sorts of feelings that renders me, and others, inherently incapable of deciding whether someone should live or die. I doubt that a judge or jury, having heard the gory details first hand, are a better sample of sanity or calm when they make their decisions.

            • Sean R Reid

              Btw, I think “did you hear about this in the media?” is an infinitely more conspiratorial question than any statement I had made.

  • The Atheist Missionary

    I’m not saying Christians should be unconcerned about injustice. I am saying that, if I was a Christian, I would be as unconcerned about death as I would be about stubbing my toe.

    • pete

      then if you were a Christian, I would hope you would be on the receiving end of Christian inculcation that life within creation is precious and dear to the one who created it, and suffered to redeem it.

      Being a Christian does not mean being a Docetist or a Gnostic (matter is bad vs. spirit is good).

      Christian Aid Organizations (Salvation Army, Oxfam, World Vision) would probably agree with me.

    • randal

      If you were a Christian wouldn’t you look to Jesus for guidance in such matters? He was very concerned about dying, so concerned that he sweat drops of blood.

      Anyway, that wasn’t your original point. Your original point was that a Christian shouldn’t be concerned about Troy Davis’ life being snuffed out too early even if he is innocent because an eternity remains. That’s a ridiculous comment.

  • The Atheist Missioanry

    The only reason why you consider my comment ridiculous is because you are failing to grasp the concept of eternity. If salvation is through Christ, salvation comes by grace, Troy has repented his sins and accepted the Lord as his personal saviour, his execution is a godsend. Is that not the logical conclusion of Christian theology?

    • randal

      You have two very confused and very false claims: first, a Christian should not be concerned about dying because of eternity; second, a Christian should accept unjust execution as a “godsend” because it leads to eternity.

      As I already pointed out, your first claim is falsified by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The fact that submitting myself to x will lead to y, and y is great, doesn’t mean I don’t still fear the experience of undergoing x.

      As for the second point, this too is false. Christians are not called to be quietists in the face of unjust killing in any circumstance.

      Please take these two strawman arguments into your backyard and start a serene autumn bonfire.

    • Sean R Reid

      TAM, let me follow the logical conclusion from your perspective:

      Since life is the product of random chance then it is inherently meaningless. Accordingly, ideas of justice are simply by-products of an evolutionary process and if, through those processes, it was determined that this man should die, then so be it.

      Also, his desire to not want to die is most likely due to his misguided belief that life has meaning and the arrogance of thinking that he is significant in a universe as vast as ours.

      Ergo, it doesn’t matter if he’s dead and it’s probably better that he be so.

      I think that about sums up the atheist position on death and the death penalty, does it not?

  • Walter

    TAM is probably thinking of these passages:

    “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. ” (Philippians 1:23)

    “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. ” (2Corinthians 5:8)

    Despite the above passages I doubt many Christian soldiers on a battlefield will stand up and yell “Alright! Bring on that eternal life!” as the artillery shells start falling around them. Muslims on the other hand…

    • pete


      You just provided 2 scriptural examples affirming the importance of human life on this earth.

      Thank you for supporting our position ;)

  • Cory C

    There is evidence that Mr. Davis is guilty — Ann Coulter’s piece (I know, I know, but she is making a case for his guilt) seems to raise doubt on his innocence:

    The death penalty is justified when the person who murdered is truly guilty — if you eliminate man A who killed man B, then man A won’t be around anymore to kill man C (guards in prison, other inmates, etc.).

    I find it ridiculous that the death penalty is ruled out in all cases by some of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

    • Jag Levak

      “There is evidence that Mr. Davis is guilty — Ann Coulter’s piece (I know, I know, but she is making a case for his guilt) seems to raise doubt on his innocence:”

      You already know the problem with accepting anything Ann Coulter says merely on her say so. I see, based on her statement that there were 34 prosecution witnesses at the trial, that other right wing talking heads are now claiming Davis gunned down MacPhail in front of 34 eyewitnesses. It apparently does not strike any of them as peculiar that there would be 34 people hanging around in a Burger King parking lot after 1:00 in the morning. Coulter is, of course, referring to witnesses for the prosecution, only a small number of which were eyewitnesses, and most of those have recanted and claimed police coercion. And it can be a tricky thing to identify one particular black man at night, which is why the identifications generally centered on the clothing.

      Davis was fingered by Coles–the guy who was hassling the homeless man MacPhail came to defend, and one of the only two eyewitnesses who has not recanted or changed his story. The police were not able to tie Davis to a .38 gun, but Coles was known to have one, and during cross examination, he claimed to have given his away to another man earlier that night. The ballistics expert said the bullets from both shootings that night “could have come” from the same gun, but he had doubts about that. He was more definite about matching the shell casings, but what Coulter neglects to mention is that the match was to a shell casing which was allegedly found by some homeless man later, creating a serious chain of evidence problem. And during a night of drinking, Coles was later heard by several to say that he was the one who killed MacPhail.

      Do we have enough to prove Davis is innocent beyond any doubt? No. But doubt about innocence is not, and should not be, the standard of guilt in any sane justice system, especially when the stakes are so high. What Coulter doesn’t seem to realize is that it is the obliviousness, the inhumanity, and the cavalier attitude of enthusiastic death-penalty zealots like her who are helping to cast serious doubt on the impartiality, objectivity, and trustworthiness of our justice system in capital cases.

      “The death penalty is justified when the person who murdered is truly guilty”

      I suspect that was supposed to read “when the person convicted was truly guilty of murder”. And “justified” just means having sufficient rationale, but rationales are based on premises. Torquemada probably thought he was justified in his extreme methods, given the premises he was operating under, and the importance of what he thought was at stake. If you mean the death penalty is justified based on existing law, then it could just as easily cease to be justified by a change in the law. There are a large number of practical and ethical arguments which weight heavily against the death penalty, and really only one in favor–the one you identified: future defense of society. The two main problems with that are 1) any argument that society cannot be kept safe from someone who is in a prison under the control of the state, is an argument for the incompetence of the state. And leading with an argument that the state is incompetent is not the best way to inspire confidence in a death-penalty system which is run and administered by the state. And 2) if this theory were correct, then we should be seeing better protection of society where the death penalty is liberally practiced, and less where it is prohibited, and yet, the evidence appears to show a correlation which runs the opposite of that predicted direction.

  • Jeff

    What can be done? Abolish the death penalty? A step in the right direction.

    Even better: Abolish monopolistic (ie, government) law enforcement. Abolish the police. Abolish the courts. If providers of justice and law enforcement were subject to the pressures of competition (under an anarchist social order), then any such provider perpetrating an outrage such as that being orchestrated by the state of Georgia would quickly find itself out of business, and its higher ups might even find themselves the subjects of criminal prosecution.

    Instead, we’re being forced to sit back and watch the government monopoly machine roll on and crush victim after victim, very nearly unresponsive to external pressures. We all agree that monopolies are unjust, inefficient, and inert when situated in other industries. So why do we put up with the tyranny of monopoly in that most delicate of industries: law enforcement? How many more lives have to be crushed before we throw off this monstrosity?

    Read Murray Rothbard.

    • Sean R Reid

      Preach on my anarchist brother!! +100 for the Rothbard plug.

      • Jeff

        Fellow Rothbardian?!

        • Sean R Reid

          Fellow anarcho-capitalist and I tend to like a lot of what Rothbard has to say. I think he ventures too far into “illuminati/conspiracy/Alex Jones” waters at times, but overall I think his philosophy of governance is sound.

  • Jeff

    Sean, your creeping heterodoxy re: Rothbard is troubling.

    Joking, of course! Can’t really speak to the conspiracy stuff–my main interest in Rothbard relates to his ethical/philosophical work.

  • Jeff

    Sean, mark your calendar and thank your lucky stars! Today you’ve been the subject of, not one, but two pieces of fine Triablogue literature. Check it:

    “Knee-jerk liberals”

    “Must be racism!”

    • Sean R Reid

      Be still my heart!! Does this mean I’ve got arch-enemies now??


      You know, I don’t recall being attacked quite so hard when I was an agnostic. Who knew I’d have to become a Christian for Christians to attack me? Go figure!

      I’ve quasi-responded over there. I’m debating whether or not to give them any time on my own blog or let them continue to huff and puff until they’ve run themselves out of air.

  • Jeff

    “I’m debating whether or not to give them any time on my own blog.”


    • Sean R Reid

      Yeah, I waded into those waters and I kind of regret it in hindsight. I thought it would be good fun but I quickly realized they’re immune to fun, or anything that I would consider fun.

      *sigh* When will I learn not to take the bait?