On August 18, 1989 someone was beating one Larry young and. a Police Officer, Marc Mac Phail of Savannah, Georgia, working in the vicinity as a security Guard at Burger King intervened in the scuffle and tried to prevent the beating. Then someone shot Mac Phail twice and he died instantly. The shots were intended to kill as one shot was on the chest and the other one on the face.
It was a tragic death of a young Police Officer and everyone felt sorry about it. He was just 27 year old, married and having a 2year old daughter and an infant son. Naturally there was widespread anger in his killing and the case got nationwide interest.
In the Police search of the spot where shooting took place, except for two bullets and bullet casings no other physical evidence was got. The bullets were found to have come from .38 calibers Pistol and someone reported to the police that Troy Davis had a .38 caliber gun which led the police to search for him.
Troy Davis was arrested on 23 August 1989 as he surrendered when heat built up on him from the Police as another man, named Sylvester 'Redd' Coles, who was said to be present at the shooting scene informed Police that it was Davis who shot at the officer. Besides, Davis had had involved in another shooting incident before and was also present at the scene of shooting.. However the Police failed to collect any physical evidence, including the murder weapon from the spot or elsewhere.
Troy Davis was sentenced to death in 1991 simply on the strength of statements from nine persons who were said to be witness to the shooting and out of them seven witnesses recanted or changed their stories which made them untrustworthy and their submissions unreliable. There were then only two witnesses left who actually did not see Davis shoot but testified in the court that Davis confessed the shooting to them. All in all, what remained as solid proof was some hearsay. No clinching evidence was received for the Police against Davis though Davis could not prove to the Police with any evidence that he was innocent. He said that he was there while the incident took place but he did not shoot. However the prosecutor, Spencer Lawton, was confident that Davis was the killer.
The public complaint on the case was in awarding a death sentence for Davis when evidence presented by the prosecution was abysmally weak. It is a widely accepted judicial principle that an innocent person should not get punished even if a thousand criminals escaped in the process. In order to safe guard this principle; the Courts generally reject cases where prosecution arguments are weak or insufficient to establish the crime. In the case of Davis the benefit of doubt was never given to him in his entire trial period running more than two decades.
The Attorneys of Davis spared no chance to appeal and as a result of it Davis had to undergo the pre-death trauma for 4 times as he got reprieves and subsequently rejections from the courts. In one appeal the U.S. Supreme court allowing a reprieve gave an extraordinary order to the lower court to conduct evidentiary hearing on Davis case to prove his innocence in the court by himself other than the usual procedure of prosecution establishing charges against a criminal. In that particular hearing the Federal Judge had also scaled up the standard of evidence to prove innocence. The Judge was to start hearing on the premise that Davis was guilty until Davis had conclusively proved otherwise. It was not easy for Davis to prove his innocence as he was present at the crime scene. Though he failed in his attempt he could convince the judge that the case against him was not an ironclad one.
Of his 42 years' life on the earth Davis spent half of that period in jail under a 'sword of Damocles’. Though eminent persons like former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pope Benedict XVI sided with him, it did not help him. In fact the lack of evidence against him only helped to prolong the case and prolong his agony. However Davis got no acquittal despite skimpy evidence.
On Wednesday, 21 September 2011 at 10.53 P M he was administered lethal concoction of drugs and was pronounced dead after 15 minutes. The local Radio Journalist, John Lewis, described his last moments as such:
“He was strapped to the gurney and the warden asked if he had to make any statement when he lifted his head up and looked directly at the front row right where Mac Phail family and friends were sitting. He said that he did not have a gun and he was not the one who took his son, father, brother and he said he was innocent." Lewis said.
For those about to take my life, may God have mercy on your soul. May God bless your souls"
When the execution process was taking place hundreds of demonstrators stood outside the jail protesting against it.. It is a mystery why the judiciary and Police were so unrelenting in the Davis case despite skimpy evidence. Perhaps they implicitly believed that he was the real culprit though evidence was little.
The U.S. is the fifth country in the world in the number of executions. Currently 35 U.S. States award capital punishment in addition to the U.S Government and military and large number of persons are in death row in each state. There are 721 prisoners in the death row in California and 398 in Florida and each state has its own numbers large or small. The women are also not spared. As on April 2010, 62 women are in the list. Various methods are adopted for killing, like lethal injection, hanging, electrocution, and firing. The execution, with its several appeals and arguments in various courts is very costly to the exchequer. In the case of Davis it self the Government might have spent millions for his long stay in the Jail, cases in various courts and execution.
There are no stats to show that capital punishment helped as an effective deterrent against committing serious crimes. The fact is no one consults law books before committing a crime. The crimes might take place on its own pace irrespective of whether death sentence is in force or not. There are many instances in the U.S. where death sentences had to be reversed on getting fresh evidence to prove innocence. Then it becomes a matter of human right violation. Since the U.S.cries foul when right violations are found in any country, it is imperative that it should check its own record in the matter first..
Epilogue: The funeral of Troy Davis' took place at Jonesville Baptist church, Savannah, on 1st October and nearly 1000 people crowded at the Pews resolving to fight against the death penalty. They were more in a mood of outrage against the way the State treated Davis than being sad at his passing away.
Image: God discussion.com