A fascination with, aversion toward, and utter confusion about the United States are all paradoxically possible at the same point in time. To an extent, these seemingly incompatible feelings accompany the imperial position of hegemony that the U.S.A. currently occupies. In this context, what happens in the U.S., particularly when lives are at stake and oppression appears irresistible, deserves the world’s compassionate attention. Legal matters, especially when capital punishment is at issue, are typical of this sort of important development that mandates a closer look.
Though I’m not an attorney, as a wordsmith I know that a fascination with language and meaning is a lawyer’s stock in trade. A while back, contemplating the term ‘accessory,’ in its criminal legal sense, seemed particularly apt in regard to the State of Georgia, where until recently I resided in the Southern U.S. A wide-ranging and authoritative definition of ‘accessory’ shows up in Black’s Law Dictionary and multiple other sources: “one who is not the chief actor in the offense, nor present at its performance, but in some way concerned therein, either before or after the act committed; one who aids, abets, commands, or counsels another in the commission of a crime. Accessory after the fact–person who, knowing a felony to have been committed by another, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the felon, in order to enable him to escape from punishment, or the like. Accessory before the fact–one who orders, counsels, encourages, or otherwise aids and abets another to commit a felony and who is not present at the commission of the offense. Accessory during the fact–one who stands by without interfering or giving such help as may be in his power to prevent the commission of a criminal offense.”
Inasmuch as any Georgia resident, who is not actively protesting the pending execution of Troy Anthony Davis, either is or ought to be aware of this coming killing, such a one is quite likely about to become every sort of accessory to this still young man’s judicial murder, which, if Davis is innocent, is at the very least a negligent homicide. Let me be completely clear: this means that not only would Governor Nathan Deal and most of the State’s legislature be culpable for what is as likely as not a major felony, it would mean that the several million Peach State occupants who are doing nothing would also be chargeable, in that their silence and inattention, or, in far too many cases of misguided vengefulness, their active support and direction, provided aid and comfort to the actual executioners.
Undoubtedly, someone viciously killed Mark Allen MacPhail on August 19, 1989. Just as obviously, a Savannah, Georgia jury convicted Troy Davis of that brutal murder in August, 1991. Lacking physical evidence that Mr. Davis was the killer, however, or any circumstantial evidence other than his presence at the scene, where off-duty officer MacPhail was attempting to break up a parking lot melee, Chatham County prosecutors relied on the testimony of nine eyewitnesses to make the charges against Troy Anthony Davis stick.
Today, seven of those nine observers take back their testimony, admitting that they cannot state with any certainty who pulled the trigger and slayed an honest cop doing good work. Several recanting witnesses speak of blatant police misconduct, including threats of imprisonment if they did not implicate Troy Davis.
Mark Allen MacPhail’s death is a fact; that someone gutlessly murdered him is a fact; Troy Anthony Davis’ conviction for that soulless crime is a fact. But we should make no mistake: given copious other facts that are now at hand, including and in addition to the recantation of over three quarters of the eyewitnesses who formed the sole basis for the State’s pinning this act on Mr. Davis in the first place, his actual guilt is at best one possibility among many others to account for the cretinous and hateful destruction of Officer MacPhail’s life.
Thus, at the very least, a significant possibility exists, a possibility that any reasonable person would acknowledge adds up to a “reasonable doubt” that was unavailable to jurors in Savannah in August, 1991, that Mr. Davis, an innocent man, has served over twenty years in prison, almost all 240 of those months on death row, for something that he did not do. Moreover, of course, all Georgians who do not insist that he receive clemency are in one way or another playing a role in a murder of Troy Anthony Davis that will be, if he is guiltless, at least as sinister and cruel and stupid as the killing for which he may unjustly soon lose his life.
In a word, passively or actively, millions of Georgians are about to become accessories before, during, and after the fact to a homicide that even those who count themselves staunch advocates of capital punishment can only claim is possibly, or at most probably, a justifiable taking of human life. Obviously, these millions of ‘accessories’ will never face justice for their acts. Procedural layers of contemporary law protect them as seamlessly as a kevlar vest would fend off a BB gun.
Perhaps those who bother to read this missive will take comfort in their legal blamelessness, even as Troy Anthony Davis suffocates on a ‘cocktail’ of lethal poisons administered by agents of the Georgia citizenry. Nevertheless, to execute a blameless bystander for a horrifying homicide merely compounds the crime; not only does no one responsible face justice, but also all of those who impassively watch the new killing become morally bankrupt, whatever escape clauses permit them to evade proper criminal blame.
I for one refuse to stand with the murderers, and I pray for an upwelling and outpouring of support to the same effect. I’m not a particularly religious person, but if Troy Anthony Davis dies at the hands of Georgia’s criminal authorities on September 21 or the days that follow, then the vast majority of my former home-State’s citizenry deserve a common epithet delivered to the guilty: “May God have mercy on their souls.”
The equinox this year, in the event of Troy’s wanton execution, will portend an endless night of gruesome injustice. What must result from that, sooner or later, is a fulfillment, whatever particular ‘war of attrition’ comes as
comeuppance for the arrogance of vicious murder by which Georgia operates, of Abraham Lincoln’s inquiry in his Second Inaugural.
“‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. If we shall suppose that American slavery(or Troy Davis’ murder by acts of omission and commission by Georgia’s people) is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives … this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash(or the hypodermic) shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'”
Why should someone who is not a U.S. citizen care about this? One might just as easily pose the question of a resident of Maine, or California, who looks askance on the bigotry and brutality so characteristic of oxymoronic “Southern justice.” The answer depends on the individual in question. Does he or she complain about imperious American actions? Or does he or she long for a world with more of a balanced distribution of power? For the resident of other states: do they ever deplore that a cretin like George Bush stole the Presidency? Do they ever wish for fairer criminal justic policies, a rejection of fascistic laws such as the U.S.A. Patriot Act, or a general diminution of the power of the ‘prison-industrial-complex?’
For non U.S. citizens or non Georgia residents who never ponder issues such as these, or who feel in fact that everything is more or less hunky-dory on the planet earth, the answer to the initial question about why some should care is simple. “They needn’t care a bit about Mr. Davis’ murder by the State and the accessory status of Georgia’s citizenry.”
But for anyone else, anyone who knows, with Hamlet, that “something is rotten” indeed in the State-of-Everything-on-Earth, the answer to the first interrogatory above is simple, but not quite so easy. To them, a concerned observer might suggest, “people who want significant reform need viewpoints that proffer something to fight the powers-that-be. Being able to note, with complete accuracy, that most Georgians are culpable for an innocent man’s murder, because they are too vicious, lazy, bigoted, or ignorant to be other than criminal accessories to such a crime, sounds to me like ammunition in the battle about what kind of future we hope to fashion for our progeny.”
When I investigated this story in 2004, I uncovered evidence that the Savannah Police know precisely what they’re doing. Executing an innocent man, while the killer is on their payroll is part of Departmental protocol somehow. In any event, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, with an update that is more concerned with my work on the case, and actions available to those who oppose murdering innocent men, due out early next week.