This column is supposed to be the place where sports and politics collide. As the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks mind-melds with the opening of the NFL season, there is an embarrassment of bombastic jock culture at my disposal to dissect. Yet I’m distracted, agitated and upset, with ESPN talking-heads sounding like the parents on a Charlie Brown special. It’s because I found out this week that the state of Georgia is going to execute Troy Davis on September 21.
I’ve worked in my spare time on Troy’s case for years and I just can’t believe it’s come to this. People from Jimmy Carter, to Desmond Tutu, to John Lewis have spoken out forcefully against Troy’s execution. Thousands have demonstrated. I even got several dozen athletes to sign a petition under the heading Jocks for Justice, to save Troy. The reality of the injustice before us has been that obvious.
Troy was convicted of murdering off-duty police Officer Mark MacPhail in 1989, but there has long been demonstrable evidence that Troy is not guilty. Of the nine people who testified to Troy’s guilt, seven have recanted. Another man, the key witness who claims that Troy killed Officer MacPhail, has been named by several of the ex-witnesses as the actual killer. And yet Georgia Judge William T. Moore Jr. calls this “smoke and mirrors.”
As Marlene Martin, national director of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, said:
“The case against Troy has fallen apart—nearly all of the witnesses have recanted their original testimony, no DNA connects him to the crime, and another man has admitted to committing the crime, according to several witnesses. At the very least, Troy should have been granted a new trial. But instead, we see the state of Georgia is set to kill him. What is the definition of cold-blooded murder? I would have to say this is it. “
Now Troy’s last shot is the Georgia Clemency Board, where his lawyers are going to try to get Troy’s sentence commuted to life without parole. In one week, on September 19, there is an international day of action to save Troy’s life. Visit nodeathpenalty.org to see if there is an action in your city. Get everyone you can to contact the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles and voice their support for Troy. Call (404) 656-5651, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and fax 404-651-8502.
I keep thinking of that crowd at the Republican debate, cheering lustily for Rick Perry’s execution resume. Is that really, at long last who we are as a country? Are we people that would kill a person like Troy Davis and cheer a person like Rick Perry? Or are we two countries: Rick Perry-land and also a place where a sizable group of us would actually rise to action and defend Troy against a legal lynching, courtesy of the state of Georgia? We’ll find out in the weeks ahead.