Tag Archives: capital punishment

When the State Murders the Innocent, When Will We Really Stand Up?

 Further Reflections on the Planned Judicial Murder of Troy Anthony Davis

Now and again, off and on, everything in this essay consists of ideas and facts that I have been conveying and reporting for years.  The text here basically accomplishes two things.  It presents the information that I received about Troy Anthony Davis when I was a reporter in Savannah on another assignment, in 2003.  It summarizes the meaning of that data, in relation to the likely murder of Troy Davis tomorrow.  It suggests what a rational, powerful response to Mr. Davis’ lawful and stupid and evil execution would be.  As I noted to start, none of this is new.  The lack of a media that has the resources to communicate such material adequately is another item that I have long sought to proffer, something in fact that I’ve been reporting for thirty-odd years as I’ve talked repeatedly about the need for Peoples Information Networks and Popular Action Networks with which they conjoin, especially in relation to the Southern U.S.

Several times in the Winter and Spring of 2003, I found myself in Savannah to cover the unjust and ludicrously biased disbarment of a powerful and prominent local Black attorney, Joyce Marie Griggs.  As the saying goes, that “is another story.”  However, as a result of that process–with its components of color prejudice, bigotry, and the elimination of threats to the powers-that-be–I learned what the true definition of a mistake is, in the context of one of several conversations about Troy Anthony Davis.  “A man who says, ‘we made a mistake,’ almost always is asking you to overlook that he has just violated you in the most profound way, robbed you of your humanity, and that he hopes to escape any consequences for such brutality.”

The speaker, a promoter of a Black Holocaust Museum in Savannah, was comparing the lynch-mob justice that had caught Troy Davis in its web, with the vast crimes of slavery and Jim Crow, responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans and African Americans.  He affirmed what three other Savannah residents, as well as Attorney Griggs, testified to as common knowledge ‘in the ‘hood’ in the city.

  •  First, Troy Davis did not kill Officer MacPhail.
  •    Second, the police knew this and had employed strong-arm tactics to gather the necessary ‘evidence’ to convict an innocent man.
  •  Third, the police, and many in the community, knew who had killed Officer MacPhail, one of the ‘witnesses’ against Davis.
  •  Fourth, this man–occasionally an informant for the police–had terrorized and threatened and eliminated people who had suggested that they would rat him out.
  •  Fifth, the Savannah police were notoriously brutal and corrupt, in the nature of an organized gang of thieves and dictators who operated rackets in the city for the upper classes.

As I have said, I have spoken and written about these matters before.  I have implored various individuals and agencies for help in investigating these allegations.  Even a hint of truth to most of them ought to exonerate Troy Davis, perhaps even extricate him from prison.  Nothing ever has come of these requests on my part; now and again, though, I have continued to write about this matter.

What these reported facts imply is clear.  The likely execution of Troy Davis tomorrow will be the most horrific sort of soulless, brutal, and evil act, a murder based on false witness and opportunism and hypocrisy and corruption.  Millions of Georgians, either through collusion or silence, will become accessories to a venal and vicious homicide.

Someday, within a couple of years at the most, Georgia will admit that it “made a ‘mistake,'” though unfortunately Mr. Davis will likely be dead.  If it manages the second time to nab the Black man–a career criminal, according to many witnesses–who did in fact gun down Officer MacPhail, then in a sense, this most bigoted of States will be getting ‘two-for-the-price-of-one’ in ridding itself of two African Americans.

That those who carry out this murder will argue that they were ‘mistaken’ cries out for a response.  What should people do about this murderous duplicity and criminal impunity on the part of constituted authorities?

Organizers of a ‘liberal’ bent have been beating the bushes to save Mr. Davis’ life.  They have, through a heroic effort, gathered 600,000 signatures calling for clemency, which the State Board of Pardons and Parole, predictably, ignored.  They have conducted vigils and marches and speaking tours.

Unfortunately, their tactical response otherwise has been tame.  ‘Write letters,’ they have advised.  ‘Make phone calls’ to complicit leaders, they have counseled.  ‘Quietly and peacefully protest,’ they have asked.  The time for such tactics has passed, in my estimation.  Here are some minimal ways that people should react, should Davis die by a ‘mistaken’ needle tomorrow.

  •  Everyone, in and out of Georgia, should do the utmost to boycott Georgia businesses, unless they have explicitly contributed to and participated in the effort to commute Davis’ sentence.
  •  No one except those who like to pal around with murderers should ever again go to college in Georgia, again unless an institution clearly fought for sparing Davis’ life.
  •  No convention should ever again occur in Georgia, until reparations and justice have been provided, except of course that those organizations that support judicial murder of the innocent ought to come only to Georgia.
  •  Everyone who can speak, write, and otherwise communicate should set aside time each year to continue condemning Georgia as in league with all that is satanic and wrong in the human condition.
  • Anyone who works for the state of Georgia, or does business for the State of Georgia, should quit their employment, or quit providing services to the State of Georgia, unless they want to support judicial murder of the likely innocent.

Again, this is a minimalist response, one which I have on other occasions embedded in both text and conversation.

However, the likely murder of Troy Anthony Davis demands a more stringent response.  This is also something that I have said in the past.

Self-defense is the very essence of much that passes for “human rights.”  As a matter of self-defense, citizens must begin to organize to take action that goes well beyond any ‘hat-in-hand’ request for assistance.  We must in fact, begin to organize to be able to show up, en masse and in force, to participate in bringing democracy–majority rule–to fruition, in some ways for the first time in U.S. history.

 Joe Hill is another victim of judicial murder.  Only recently, have scholars demonstrated ‘beyond a shadow of a doubt,’ the way that corrupt criminals in power ‘made a mistake’ and shot Joe Hill to death by firing squad in Utah.  He might well have advised us to consider thinking along the following lines.  ‘If 100 people showed up to blockade a prison and demand the release of those held within, the ‘forces-of-disorder’ in charge of the world would arrest them and put them behind bars; if a thousand people showed up at such a blockade, the authorities would arrest or shoot them down; they might even mow down ten thousand; but would they so easily be able to subvert the popular will if 100,000 or a million citizens showed up at the prison gates and demanded, with Moses, “Let my people go!”?

In any event, until we have the capacity and the will to manifest such a potent expression of majority rule, then we will never be able to say, as Georgia’s most magnificent preacher did before he too was cut down, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”

Accessories–Before, During, and After the Fact

From Dr. Boyce Watkins, "Facts You May Not Know About the Troy Davis Case"

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.