Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Troy Davis, Reasonable Doubt and the Lack of Justice

RIP Troy Davis. September 21, 2011 - 1108PM

God bless the dead.

There’s a certain perverse curiousity about the last minutes of a person’s life. I’ve had the misfortune of personally witnessing the last moments of somebody’s life and since that time I’ve often recounted those final hours, minutes, and seconds over and over again.

As of the beginning of this writing, Troy Anthony Davis, is counting down the final minutes of his life. By the time I’m finished, he’ll be dead. And I find myself imaging what that’s like. I can’t help it. Knowing your end is near and knowing the exact time you will move on is a punishment no person should know. Especially this person because based on every recount and recollection of this case, there is absolutely no reason that this man’s life should be history.


It sickens me. It saddens me. I recognize that when a situation touches you that you’re more likely to think irrationally. But because of this case, I’m completely opposed to the death penalty. Since the Innocence Project has come to fruition and proven how many people were falsely convicted (273) I have come to not only not believe in the justice system, I’m downright afraid of it. I’ve always thought that it didn’t have my best interests in mind for racial reasons. But at this point, Troy Davis’s case proves that no matter what evidence you do or don’t have, once somebody decides you are guilty, well you’re guilty.

The State of Georgia decided that this man was supposed to die for a crime for which his guilt was in complete question, even though people from the prison system and politicians who support the death penalty in the state have asked for clemency.

I feel sick. I’ve shed a tear behind this man I don’t know and it’s because of just how unfair it seems. Every person behind bars isn’t innocent. And I have no idea if Troy Davis is either. But as the twitter hashtags and signs and slogans have indicated, there’s too much doubt about this guilt. Try the man again. Let him stay in jail…alive, while we take another crack at it. But to actually kill somebody, especially in this circumstance is not what even the most rightwing, death penalty advocate would want. Nobody ever wants to kill the wrong person for justice.

I don’t know how much information the individuals who have to administer the lethal injection have about the case or how they feel but I truly feel sorry for any prison staffer who has to partake in this execution.

And to be fair, let me say I truly feel for the family of the slain police officer. At the end of the day, they lost a father who was really doing nothing more than being a good guy and doing his job while he was off duty. A crime was committed and the responsible person should be paying the price. I sympathize with their plight because the entire case has flipped into not being about the slain officer. But if potentially killing the wrong man is more important than getting actual justice then we’re all worse off. Including the family of the slain officer. Ironic since the police officer’s job was to seek justice.

1108pm. The moment when every statement about our country’s belief in truth, justice, and the American way was proven to be bullshit.

The thing is, as a Black man I never believed in it anyway. And yet I’m still disappointed. I still WANT to believe that all the evidence in the world would keep me alive. What I hope more is that the memory of Troy Davis causes people to continue to care and make some sort of difference. In fact, what concerns me most is that our general short memory doesn’t make this week the last time we hear about Troy Davis. We tend to care while something seems to matter and then its on to the next thing. But this case is bigger than Troy Davis which I think was evidenced by the huge amount of attention this case drew. I hope somehow it stays that way, though my optimism has short legs.

God bless the dead.

RIP Troy Davis.

RIP justice…again.

How a man can be killed even though nobody is positive he did it, I’ll never know. But I’m also not that flawed. I hope this is a wake up call to somebody. I hope.

What are your thoughts? Please, share it all.


Filed Under:
Damon Young

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

  • The Other Jerome

    Furious… and sad…. and helpless….. which makes me furious again! Can we sue these bastards?

    • http://www.3sizesin10minutes.com Mary

      Sue them for what? What damages would we – could we ask for? Justice? How we gon’ collect if we win? I’m just sayin’…

  • http://sisterescape.blogspot.com/ Le Chele

    Unfortunately, people are always going to be wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit. It’s a sad reality. But there is a difference between having a person sitting in a cell for 20 years when wrongly convicted and having him, oh I dunno, PUT TO DEATH!

    To be honest, I’m not sure if Troy Davis is completely innocent. But isnt’ that the point? If intelligent people can debate his innocence then it is reprehensible to execute them.


    • Perfect Square

      Yes! If we aren’t sure, then death is not an option. Which is why we should get rid of it, again!

  • Green_Means

    “Nobody ever wants to kill the wrong person for justice.” That’s a good point. It is frustrating that all of us well-meaning people could do nothing to stop it.

  • http://www.lifeofalibra.com L Boogie

    I’m truly at a loss for words.

    Something inside of me had some sort of hope, some sort of…lack of cynicism that they would actually leave him alive while they worked to see if their initial conviction had legs to stand on, or if in fact, he was not guilty of the crime that he was sentenced to die for. I also can’t even fathom what it is to look people in the face who are being paid to take your life, and on the flip, I can’t imagine being the one that has to administer the injection or participate in any part of the process. Yes, this was what, the 4th time he tried to get a stay of his execution? I can’t imagine going through the emotional turmoil of wondering if this will be the time that my case is finally reviewed, and they finally may see after all that I didn’t do it. Even if he did commit the crime, there was just way too much doubt surrounding the entire situation for my liking…which makes me wonder just how many other current cases there are like his out there right now. Like you, Panama, I’m disappointed. Something in me thought that this would have ended differently…

    • http://www.dedicatedtotheBlackman.wordpress.com WonderWoman

      How cruel to delay it just to go through with it the same evening…giving false hope and the false perception that possibly some actual investigating was going on…cruel and unusual…

      • http://www.lifeofalibra.com L Boogie

        And I think that is what has people riled up the most….to give the sense that something was being done and for a few short hours there being a glimmer of hope, then to have it snuffed out…I think that’s where the pit in my stomach came from.

  • http://www.dedicatedtotheBlackman.wordpress.com WonderWoman

    No thoughts…just sadness…just deep sadness…but why am I surprised…aint a damn thing changed….

  • TrackStar

    At my university today I had the privilege to hear a distinguished professor speak about racial disparities. Her best quote was “You can’t tell me racism isn’t alive when as we sit here Casey Anthony is free because of reasonable doubt and Troy Davis will die today despite reasonable doubt.” That about sums up our system to me. A woman who had the decomposing body of her child in her car is still walking this Earth, and Troy Davis isn’t. RIP.

    • Bisous

      Wow. That about says it all right there doesn’t it?

      • LadyC

        Yep, that pretty much sums it up. It’s incredibly sad and I really believed the outcome would be different. It just highlights our country’s conflict between race relations and the judicial system.

    • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

      I sympathize with this viewpoint, but it’s extremely problematic to make any unilateral comparison between the two. There are some key differences between each case. The most reported on reason was that the Casey Anthony case was poorly prosecuted. She didn’t have previous run ins with the law like Mr. Davis had. She’s very attractive. She’s a woman. And the most important aspect, Troy Davis’ case is about him killing a cop. Despite all the police brutality that has occurred in this country, many Americans still hold them in high esteem.

      • TrackStar

        You made some good points. Those two cases aren’t one in the same, but race is still a factor. Let’s put it this way; if Casey had been “Cashawna” would she still be innocent? Can you really imagine them letting some 22 year old black, out of wedlock mother go free because of reasonable doubt? If “Cashawna” had the same physical evidence, the same pictures on facebook of her partying while her child was “missing”, etc…? While the speaker’s comparison wasn’t the strongest, we unfortunately don’t have to do too much digging to find cases of racial injustice in our legal system. Troy Davis isn’t the first minority to suffer a miscarriage of justice, and he won’t be the last.

        • http://iamyourpeople.com I Am Your People

          Well, Casey Anthony’s case had been in the news for at least a year. How many of us knew about Troy Davis a week ago? I think he got into public consciousness too late. So sad.

      • http://pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

        “Despite all the police brutality that has occurred in this country, many Americans still hold them in high esteem.”

        This is true, actually. And nothing speaks more to this than the fact that the jury included 7 blacks and five whites. It reminds me of Lakeview Terrace when one of the characters noted that the color that matters here isn’t “black or white”… it’s “blue.” While I completely feel for the cops family and want them to seek some sort of closure (because really, to be in that position and still not be sure if you got the “right” guy is indescribable), I can’t deny the “holy” identity police have in our justice systems… in our society as a whole.

  • Sanjanette

    I read you blog every day, and this is the first time I am posting. I graduated from law school and I am now waiting on my bar exam results. I have completely lost my faith in a system that I wanted to change from the inside. My heart is broken for both of the families involved. I thought maybe someone would stand up and do the right thing, but my idealism surely got the best of me tonight. I am sad that I remember most of the terrible things that have happened to me personally, and the ones that did not involve me, and I really thought I could help. Sadly, I have come to the realization that the system is too big and too corrupt. The question now is…where do I go from here?

  • Tina

    What will keep this man alive in memory is something that my friend says, “I am Troy Davis” Anyone who is at the mercy of this flawed justice system is Troy Davis. We are Troy Davis. R.I.P.

    • http://twitter.com/awildapeappears StLunatic

      I’m not. I am a Black man at the mercy of an unfair justice system, but I am not or refuse to ever be a criminal. You won’t catch me beating up homeless people or being anywhere closely associated to a murder. Just my thoughts on that particular mantra. We need to be equivocal as we mobilize, or otherwise we will be dismissed.

      • randomeffery

        ???? @ this whole entire comment…

        the point is that people either believe that he point blank didn’t do it, or that the trial proceeded in a manner that would make it impossible to be certain of his guilt.

      • Francis J

        But what are you saying exactly? When people say I am Troy Davis, they are saying that they fully understand that they could be in the same stance where they are being detained, and executed with all types of doubt surrounding their accuser’s accusations. No one is saying I am a criminal or a murderer. And it is sad and frightening that you dont understand this society and economic system and how so many Black men and women become criminalized in it.

        And we need to be questionable as we mobilize? Simply Stated that is false. You need to watch The Black Power Mixtape or read a book on any successful revolutions that have taken place (well… ever)- Mobilization with results requires a united voice and direction. Answering questions and providing understanding to those who seek (non-enemies of course) is fine but this being equivocal is foolish.

        What are your thoughts really. And have you been paying attention while you have been forming them?

        • http://twitter.com/awildapeappears StLunatic

          Sir. Ma’am. Other? . . .

          EQUIVOCAL. Questionable doesn’t even make sense in that context.

          • http://twitter.com/awildapeappears StLunatic

            #ThatAwkwardMomentWhen u discover equivocal doesn’t mean what you think it means. My bad. I apologize. I thought it meant having a balanced viewpoint. My point was we can’t get so bogged down in passion and emotion as we fight, that we are cognizant as to the issue. Save Troy Davis? An appropriate mantra. Free Troy Davis?? Hell no. The man was an accomplice to murder. I Am Troy Davis? For the reasons enumerated above, no again, I am not.

            • http://twitter.com/awildapeappears StLunatic

              aren’t. I’m fxing up everywhere. Lemme just hop off.

            • tymetravelife

              I get your point stlunatic. This is tragic in multiple ways. He was not completely innocent, since he was at least marginally involved in the murder of a police officer–even if he wasn’t the one to pull the trigger. And on the other hand, many strongly believed he at least deserved a new trial or at most life in prison, but not death.

      • Amos Banks

        I agree with StLunatic. There are valid points about The Man, the judicial system or society in general. I didn’t see a single post about how this all could’ve been avoided if Davis was home playing Nintendo in 1989 instead of being mixed up in that other BS.

        • http://twitter.com/awildapeappears StLunatic

          that’s exactly what I’m trying to say. Is it an enormous injustice and a slap to the African-American community to kill him and stay a white man’s execution the next day? Yes. Is Troy Davis’ death martyrdom? Not exactly.

      • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

        After reading a ittle more, I understand your comment. Ya boy wasn’t at home chilling and pulled into a murder. If I understand correctly, he was convicted of shooting another man in the face that night and that man lived. Then he and this other man beat up a homeless man and after that the officer was shot by, apparently, either Davis or the man that was with him.

  • SweetMagnoliaBrown

    I’m numb. Saddened. Hoping against hope that I don’t give up all hope. My faith in people, not this country, has taken a serious beating. I can’t say I ever had much faith in this country. The longer I live in Georgia and work for state government, the sadder I grow each year. Mind boggling the things these so-called representatives of the people believe and do in the name of that belief. Surely we know not what we do. This sh*t just seems bizarre to me. So extremely bizarre.

    • CurlyTop

      @ SMB-I’ve been giving up on the South for a while now, this is the icing on top for me.

      “But if potentially killing the wrong man is more important than getting actual justice then we’re all worse off.”<—-real ish PJ

      For some reason, this is sticking to me in the most unpleasant manner. I can see history repeating itself over and over again (especially in the South) with this case. It’s like a slap in the face to all people, it says "Fcuk justice! We need to avenge death with a death." Evidence didn't matter, nothing mattered at all. Meanwhile, another family of an innocent man mourns a lost because of the injustice in our "justice" system. This is not just an isolated case, it speaks volumes. There is a HUGE disparity between the people of color in the prison system not because WE are immoral or genetically created to be put in that position. It is because the system wasn’t created by us, but against us.
      I feel so trapped as a woman of color in the United States. We put on this façade of freedom and liberty but limit the access to both. I’m disgusted and disgraced. I’m angry as hell too. But more than anything I am distraught. Like you PJ I witnessed death at an early age and as I get ready to lay down to rest tonight, I can’t help but to imagine the final moments of this mans life.

  • LSQ

    It’s quite a complex and sad thing. But did it really take this to realize how flawed our system of justice is? I guess things like this make us sit up and take notice.
    We incarcerate at a higher rate than anyone else. Is it working? We incarcerate for possession of drugs -why? That sho ain’t working.
    A man’s freedom and life shouldn’t be taken away so lightly.
    Maybe this’ll make people become more involved in state / local politics to get rid of the death penalty and reform the penal/corrections system.