Troy Davis: the fight goes on
20 years after being put on death row in Georgia, USA, Troy Anthony Davis was strapped to a gurney and injected with a lethal pentobarbital cocktail in the early hours of this morning – needlessly, outrageously, and absolutely unjustifiably.
Having campaigned for justice for Troy and to prevent his execution for years, we in the Amnesty office are mourning. Denied justice, denied clemency, yesterday even denied a polygraph test, Troy has been denied his human right to life and his right not to be tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
There is no consolation we can take from Troy’s execution.
The process of death by injection is not as clinical as it sounds. It will have taken place in an isolated room, most likely administered by someone who isn’t a medical professional; the majority of American medical bodies outright deny the medicalisation of execution processes.
Like Monday’s clemency hearing, the killing was conducted in front of a select audience, behind closed doors – perpetuating the theatrical nature of the cruel exhibition of execution in the US – Troy’s 20 preceding years being permeated by a tortuous process of waiting and almost-dying.
As per Georgia law, the family of Mark MacPhail (the man whom Troy is convicted of murdering) was permitted to attend the execution; Troy’s family was not. Three journalists were obliged to bear witness to the event. Troy’s lawyers were also present.
The barbarous, staged nature of the process was reemphasised by the last-minute temporary pause on Troy’s execution.
Hopeful until the very end, around 500 of us held vigil outside the US embassy in London, in order bear witness to Troy’s death and mark our opposition to his impending execution.
Just before midnight UK time (7pm in Georgia), we silently turned to face the embassy building, with Troy on our minds. At midnight, we heard cheers from our colleagues stationed outside Troy’s prison in Jackson, Georgia, via our phones and laptops. Utterly confused, we tried to decipher the message. “The Supreme Court has issued a stay.” At the time Troy’s death was due to take place we were cheering, hugging and weeping: Troy was still alive.
It quickly emerged that the Supreme Court had issued a reprieve two minutes before Troy was scheduled to die. We waited (#theworldiswatching). Unfortunately this was only another four hour shift in a twenty year waiting game; the Supreme Court announced it would not stay the execution, and that lethal drugs would be administered to Troy within the following half hour.
Troy died at 11.08pm in Georgia, 4.08am UK time.
The three media witnesses described the death to the waiting world.
If anything is to come out of this week, it is surely that there is widespread international recognition of Troy Davis’ name. #troydavis, and then ‘who is Troy Davis‘, were trending around the world on Twitter throughout the day yesterday, along with this campaign’s #toomuchdoubt slogan. Today it is #RIPTroyDavis.
On grounds of the doubt surrounding Troy’s case, there has been international condemnation of the decision to deny Troy clemency – even from those who support the death penalty, like former FBI Director William Sessions – but Georgia did not listen.
When clemency was denied on Tuesday, we asked you to email the Parole Board. When the Board blocked all emails coming from Amnesty, we asked you to email from your personal accounts. Your support speaks volumes. An absolutely unprecedented 64,000 of you emailed the state Parole Board in 24 hours yesterday. When the Board switched off all incoming public emails, you faxed and called their office.
It could seem that we were not listened to. But blocking emails, unhooking the phone, switching off the fax machine cannot work forever. The state of Georgia must acknowledge the astounding international pressure to review their death penalty policy.
Troy said yesterday:
“The struggle for justice doesn’t end with me. This struggle is for all the Troy Davises who came before me and all the ones who will come after me.
I’m in good spirits and I’m prayerful and at peace. But I will not stop fighting until I’ve taken my last breath.”
While this is a dark day, Troy’s name has meaning. And Troy represents thousands who die by execution every year around the globe. In America alone, there are currently over 3,200 people locked in the theatrical waiting game on death row – an embarrassment of hitches indeed. Troy Davis could be anyone. And this movement won’t end with Troy.
We will continue to campaign to end use of the death penalty around the world. We will not stop fighting although Troy has taken his last breath.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.