Thursday, September 22, 2011
A Eulogy for Troy Davis (A Lament for a Broken System)
The Scottsboro Nine. Rodney King. Jena 6. Gennarlow Wilson. Oscar Grant. Sacco and Vanzetti. Troy Davis joined them as a victim of a broken justice system. Unlike the Jena 6 and Wilson, Davis didn't see his fate overturned by the courts and despite very credible doubt, he was executed at 8:08 PM PST tonight by the state of Georgia.
I was disappointed in the Georgia parole board failing to grant an appeal. I was disappointed that the Supreme Court delayed the education but refused to grant a stay of execution (especially Clarence Thomas - who continues to embarrasses the seat that Thurgood Marshall once held). I'm disappointed not that the system failed again but that it failed despite growing evidence to the contrary.
As a Black man, I cannot sit here and say I am disappointed that Southern justice reminded me that life (regardless of color) is not worth valuing to make sure it is worth taking. Southern Justice has killed many a Black man and as Texas Gov. Rick Perry's record shows, he has overseen the execution of over 200 criminals. Let me break down what this is.
Southern Justice believes you are guilty and should stay guilty. Southern Justice says throw the book at Black folks who dare get accused of a crime. Southern Justice is worse than regular justice because it was rooted in revenge and psychological fear to keep folks in their place.
Almost four years ago to the day, I was in Jena, Louisiana covering the Jena 6 Rally to free one of the six still in jail. The Louisiana parish DA wielded justice with an iron fist that went unfairly against those young men, charging them with attempted murder before the charges were lessened. What I learned that day was there's causes everywhere worth fighting for.
What happened in Jackson, Georgia, was one of them. 7 of 9 witnesses recanted their testimony. No forensic evidence linked Davis to the murder of Officer Mark MacPhail. All that convicted him was eyewitness testimony and despite several appeals and countless support in his favor, his conviction was not overturned.
We have a justice system that too often sides with those in the system instead of correcting their mistakes. The cop who killed Oscar Grant was convicted but of involuntary manslaughter and got 7 months in jail. Right now, in Fullerton (45 mins south from me), one cop was charged with murder while the other of manslaughter in the brutal death of a homeless man. The manslaughter charge comes despite the fact the that cop continued to assault the man repeatedly.
As I stated on Twitter, we don't know if Troy Davis pulled that trigger or not. But we know that there was too much doubt to make him accountable by death. When I served on a jury, I was told the difference between doubt and reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt means you can prove factually that you aren't sure someone is guilty. Doubt can come up despite evidence to the contrary but you have to side with the evidence unless proven otherwise.
I've supported the death penalty for years. I've covered stories where I met people whose death sentence was overturned and who didn't seek it for folks guilty of murdering their loved ones. After this case, I have to seriously ask do I still believe in it for those extreme cases of murder? Can I support something that I believe is justice that can be used wrongly?
Either way, the ghost of Troy Davis will hover over us for a while. I'm angry that the broken justice system has failed us again but just like I learned in Jena, the best way to react is to fight and stay informed. Work in your own neighborhoods and continue to raise awareness. Don't let his death be in vain and continue to fight against injustice anywhere. We may lose some battles, but the victories we win will be worth it.
Plenty of eyes have been awakened tonight. I hope you stay awake and not plug back into the Matrix. Many of us don't have the luxury of forgetting what we see repeatedly. Think about this night and may it provoke to a change in how you view this broken legal system and how different folks are affected disproportionately by it.
(I want to send my condolences also to the family of Officer Mark MacPhail. You were failed tonight because despite your convictions that Troy was guilty, you deserved to have a justice system proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You were led to believe by a broken system you had justice. You should've been led better.)